Michel: A wellspring of social change

Young people are working toward change
Michel: A wellspring of social change

The transition to spring this year was different than in years past. It came with the seasonal firsts I look forward to, like ice melting on the lakes, the return of songbirds and the first thunderstorm. But this year’s reawakening of nature also came with a wellspring of unexpected sights and sounds — the rise of young people working for social change.

As someone who knows how difficult it can be for disenfranchised groups to create meaningful change, I admire the students who are drawing attention to the issue of safety in our schools. The survivors of the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, have spearheaded a national call to action. Over the past few months we have seen students walk out of their classrooms in protest of school violence and thousands participate in the March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C., and in cities across the country, including Madison.

Local students have made their voices heard. I was impressed when they took days out of their spring break to participate in a march they organized called 50 Miles More, which began in Madison and ended on March 28 in Janesville (the home of House Speaker Paul Ryan). It culminated in a rally for gun control, which I watched on a livestreamed broadcast on Channel3000.com. Members of the group not only called for certain reforms, but they also challenged students in the other 49 U.S. states to hold a 50 Miles More march by November. While watching that livestream, I witnessed a new generation of Wisconsin residents taking a stand on one of the most divisive issues in our nation. In doing so, they demonstrated courage and a commitment to their convictions.

This magazine looks for that kind of social awareness in the stories we bring to you, and we don’t shy away from the ones that are complicated to explain. Our cover story on sustainable seafood practices (starting on page 52) is an example of our commitment to tackling a complex issue and breaking it down for our readers. We balance this kind of coverage with the latest in the food scene, arts, entertainment, business, politics and viewpoints that add context to the ongoing narrative of life in Madison.

One narrative I often hear in this community is that Madison is progressive. Certainly arguments can be made to the contrary. But in recent months, it has been our high school students who have tapped into progressive tactics to promote social reforms. And that’s what has turned this spring into a different kind of renewal.

Karen Lincoln Michel is editor of Madison Magazine.