Poet Caleb Femi on giving gen Z a voice with the ‘Life After Lockdown’ project – Screen Shot
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Poet Caleb Femi on giving gen Z a voice with the ‘Life After Lockdown’ project

Following months in lockdown and the barrage of news on how the pandemic will affect young people’s future, poet Caleb Femi has partnered with the National Citizen Service (NCS) to launch Life After Lockdown, a visual statement aiming to reveal how ‘generation lockdown’ see their future post COVID-19.

With 75 per cent of gen Z feeling like they don’t have a voice in society, the poet crowd-sourced the opinions of young people across Britain, creating a poem that reflects the voices of this generation and brings this to life through a new short film told through moving image, photography and content submitted by NCS graduates.

Femi spoke to Screen Shot and talked us through his work on the project in some more detail. “Beyond the varying degrees of the terrible and delightful things we individually experienced during the lockdown, it’s safe to say that self-reflection was a moment that visited us all. Be it in the small of the night or the glow of a late-spring sunrise or the eerie silence of your high street underscored by chirping birds, we were met with stock-taking questions: who am I? What impact do I have on those around me, my friends, my family, my neighbours? What do I contribute to my community? And perhaps the most important question of them all: what does life after the lockdown look like?”

Poet Caleb Femi on giving gen Z a voice with the ‘Life After Lockdown’ project

Femi further explained that these concerns were not only questions he wanted politicians, medical experts or financial analysts to answer: “The question is answered very much in the way one would solve a jigsaw puzzle. Tiny pieces are brought together to make up one large picture of the future. Each person in society contributes a piece to that puzzle. Often is the mistake made where young people’s responses are ignored resulting in holes in the picture of the future.”

For the poet and English teacher who had been named the first young people’s laureate for London in 2016, it is crucial for Britain to understand the importance of listening to the new generation: “After the devastation of COVID-19, it’s never been more important for us to listen to the young generation. They are bold and charged with optimism, resilience, empathy and imagination. Gone are the days where ‘children’ should be seen and not heard, no, not when they have innovative ideas, when they see things the older generations cannot. Let us listen to them as we plan for a better future for all of us.”

Having inspired the Life After Lockdown poem, we heard some more from those who have a lot to say about their future and want to be heard—the UK’s new generation.

Ellie, 17 from Worcester

“We need to keep sharing the new sense of community that my generation has found online, using social channels to do so. I also hope we continue sharing the positive voices of young people with the rest of society, especially since it’s our future that will be mostly impacted as a result of COVID-19, yet we’re the ones who are often forgotten.”

Lira, 19 from Leeds

“I want to be able go to the beach again, spend another moment laughing with loved ones face to face and just show them how much I really care for them. During lockdown, we created an online community and together, we created a virtual safe space where we could reach out to old friends, play quizzes, dance, joke and be real with one another. I hope this world will never be the same – but be better.”

Holly, 18 from Hampshire

“We need to continue this community atmosphere we’ve finally created. From all coming together to clap for the NHS, singing together from our front doors, to getting shopping or medication for those who can’t themselves, I really hope that we will always remember that despite being physically apart, we all came together as one supportive community.”

Ithill, 15 from Essex

“Lockdown has given teenagers the opportunity for self-discovery and allowed us to gain new skills we may not have accomplished before. For instance, I found myself loving baking during lockdown. It’s also helped us not take nature for granted. Seeing less litter in lakes and hardly trodden paths on daily walks has been a sight for sore eyes, as well as helping me realise how important it is for us all to help protect our environment after lockdown.”

Life After Lockdown is part of the wider NCS ‘No We Can’ campaign, which aims to give a voice to a generation ready to speak their mind, inciting independence and helping them turn a lifetime of being told they are ‘too young’ into a collective voice that tells the world what they can achieve—a message I wholeheartedly stand behind.

Who knows, looking at the coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown through a positive angle might be exactly what the new generation needs to feel listened to and secure enough to truly blossom.

7 statistics that show why gen Z might be the one to end systemic racism

For a few years now, many have described the generation Z as sensitive, lazy and addicted to social media. While some of it is most definitely true, we’ve recently started seeing gen Z as the one that will change things. Now, as the Black Lives Matter movement carries on protesting in the US as well as in the rest of the world, we wonder if gen Z could actually be the generation that tackles systemic racism.

To answer this, we asked the gen Z live platform Yubo to share a few of our questions with its users. The poll was conducted between 9 June and 15 June and had Yubo survey over 13,000 people aged 13 to 25 years old in the UK. This allowed Screen Shot to get gen Zers’ opinion on the movement of protest that followed George Floyd’s murder in the US.

From the poll’s results, 7 statistics stood out as clear signs that gen Z could well be the generation of change.

In the UK, 4 out of 5 gen Zers believe that black people are treated differently

In order to achieve any kind of change, we need to accept that there is something wrong in the first place. That’s why we asked Yubo’s gen Zers residing in the UK whether they felt like black people were treated differently than white people. In other words, we wanted to see if they could admit the existence of white privilege.

In response, 4 out of 5 gen Zers said they believe that black people are treated differently, compared to only 2 out of 3 of their parents sharing the same belief. For many, denying white privilege comes from misunderstanding the concept.

Not fully grasping how society privileges white individuals has led many to believe that black people who have suffered from police brutality somehow deserved the blame. In comparison, the new generation has been helped by social media and the internet in understanding where white privilege comes from and how exactly it benefits certain people.

In the UK, 4 out of 5 gen Zers believe that peaceful protests are necessary to facilitate change

While certain news outlets have made it their mission to depict the many protests that followed George Floyd’s murder as violent, many protesters have testified against these statements. We’ve discovered that, in the UK, 4 out of 5 gen Zers believe that peaceful protests are necessary to facilitate change, confirming that most new gens intend to protest peacefully and not violently. Half of their parents hold the same belief.

Despite 4 out of 5 gen Zers Brits never attending a protest, over half would be willing to be arrested for attending a peaceful protest

With the current movement still going strong, we’ve seen the protesters’ resilience and willingness to sacrifice their time and energy in a cause that is more than worth it. Despite the risk of getting arrested by the police, new gens have admitted they would be prepared to take that risk in order to make their voice heard.

7 statistics that show why gen Z might be the one to end systemic racism

4 out of 5 gen Zers believe that more needs to be done in the US while 2 out of 3 believe that more needs to be done in the UK

While previous generations have been quick to point the finger at the US, as we’ve seen Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis do last week in an interview with George the Poet, gen Z is also calling out the UK and other countries as being responsible for systemic racism, too. Ignoring the UK’s denial of its own racism is as disingenuous as ignoring the US’ police brutality and racism, and doing so only further perpetuates white privilege in the UK.

These statistics portray gen Zers as strong protesters who are aware of systemic issues as well as willing to take action. But admitting and fighting these don’t come without its toll on new gen’s mental and physical wellbeing.

In the UK, 3 out of 4 gen Zers are concerned about health issues at the protests

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the fight against racism and injustice couldn’t wait. While staying home as much as possible is still strongly recommended by governments, protesters have had to make do with their best tool in order to make their voices heard: protesting.

Just yesterday, police officers in London urged Priti Patel to impose an emergency ban on all protests during the coronavirus pandemic, warning officers were being put at risk by a wave of mass demonstrations. Although wearing masks, gloves, and keeping a two meters distance from other protesters are the best ways to avoid risk of getting COVID-19, many protesters are still concerned about their health. The situation, however, has not discouraged the Black Lives Matter movement from fighting back.

1 out of 3 gen Zers said their mental health has been impacted by the surge of online images and videos of the protests

Protesting has never been easy. But now, more than ever, with the constant flow of graphic and harmful content our brains receive through social media platforms, we find ourselves on edge frequently. This has had an impact on gen Z’s mental health. As an activist, looking after your mental health is a necessary step in the fight against systemic racism.

1 in 2 British gen Zers feel overwhelmed by the information coming from the #BlackLivesMovement on how to take action

This statistic highlights how much more effort we need to make as a generation. Protests must carry on, yes, but we also need to provide more information to anyone that might feel the need to research how to take action. Only by doing so will we start tackling systemic racism.

These protests are made of passionate, non-violent young leaders fighting for a brighter future. Those who previously criticised the new generation for being too connected, too woke or even too sensitive will be compelled to reconsider their stance soon enough.