On a miserably rainy Seattle day in July 2018, thousands of young people marched through wet streets for climate justice, in tandem with youth activists in 25 cities worldwide. That movement, organised by Zero Hour founder and co-executive director Jamie Margolin, laid the groundwork for Greta Thunberg’s game-changing first school strike. As Generation Z continues to mobilise in dynamic and creative ways, Margolin is at the beating heart of a fierce youth-led mission to change the world.
At the forefront of youth climate activism, Margolin fights to uplift LGBTQ+ and Indigenous voices in the political landscape, and the personal is intrinsic to this political fight. That journey started age 14 after the 2016 elections which brought Trump to power: “Those results solidified what I learned from when I was little and the ongoing climate crisis – our leaders are not going to take the action we need them to if we the people don’t fight and demand it,” she says. Her fight has brought her to political offices to speak, to the podium in front of thousands in US-wide climate strikes, and to join forces with activists from Standing Rock to the Amazon. “I want to influence the future to a point the world has finally healed,” she says. “We have to get to the roots of the climate crisis. The patriarchy, racism, colonialism, and excessive, abusive capitalism that caused the climate crisis will have been addressed.”
Her forthcoming book YOUTH TO POWER: Your voice and how to use it, chronicles her own journey to activism and offers vital guidance for anyone who wants to make an active difference and build a mass movement.
How is your work informed by your perspective, experiences, and identity?
Jamie Margolin: I check a lot of boxes. I am the daughter of a Colombian Immigrant and an Ashkenazi Jew. I am Latina, Jewish, a first generation American, and to top it all off, I’m also a lesbian. All of these intersecting identities give me a unique lense to view the world, and they inform my activism so that it is inclusive and intersectional. A lot of people from privileged backgrounds who never faced prejudice or discrimination a day in their lives say things like ‘Forget all other social justice issues, let’s just throw that all aside and fight for the climate!’ But I realise that I can’t just stop being a woman, stop being gay, stop being Latinx, stop being Jewish until we solve the climate crisis – and the climate crisis was caused by the same people and systems of oppression that hold a lot of my communities down. I fight for social justice and climate justice simultaneously, knowing the two aren’t mutually exclusive.
Where do you eventually want to get to in your career?
Jamie Margolin: I want to both be a revolutionary powerhouse in politics and in entertainment. I want to write screenplays, direct shows and movies that provide the representation that the LGBTQ+ community needs in the mainstream media. I have grown up as a queer woman in a media landscape that does not have us as the superheroes, the princesses, the protagonists – we are at worst, victims of violence, hypersexualised for male gaze, crude sterotypes, the first to die, and a cautionary tale, and at best, a brief afterthought.
I want to be the Jewish Alexandria Ocasio Cortez. I want to hold a national elected office, and be an elected official who puts the needs of her people before corporate greed, who revolutionises the political system to put the people and the planet first, and de-corrupt Capitol Hill.
“I want to be the Jewish Alexandria Ocasio Cortez. I want to hold a national elected office, and be an elected official who puts the needs of her people before corporate greed” – Jamie Margolin
What creative or philanthropic project would you work on with a grant from the Dazed 100 Ideas Fund?
Jamie Margolin: I would fund the creation of a photo or video project of queer women of colour, recreating stills of classic fairytales and Disney movies except making them all lesbian. So a queer WOC twist on all of the classics. This project would serve to show how queer women belong in the traditional fantasy and fairytale that people say we’re too ‘taboo’ and ‘innapropriate’ to be a part of. I would fund a live public exhibit and shoot a film about the creation of the project, going behind the scenes, explaining each of the pictures and the reasoning behind them.
Portrait of Jamie Margolin by Keri Oberly