Santa Clarita youth and beyond have been grappling with the grief of losing high school and college experiences to the complications of COVID-19 and now dealing with the social chaos happening around the globe.
However, some local students and community organizers are putting that aside to open up a civil dialogue between those of opposing viewpoints, in light of the recent escalated tensions regarding race.
“Real Generation Z” is a group made up of five local teens, who felt it necessary to put on a small gathering in Central Park, aiming to have peaceful conversations between those who may not agree with the community’s current state of unrest.
“It’s a movement. I think that’s the main thing that really brought us all together. Someone said it earlier today, there’s something in the air. There’s definitely a fire burning, it’s been burning for a long time, but I think that it’s reached its limit and it only took one person to say something, and we all just kinda came together,” Gabriel Prieto claims.
“It was like God spoke to us and told us this is what we’re supposed to do, it was literally God’s whisper, and we’re here to change the world. It’s a movement and it’s never gonna stop.”
Prieto, along with Sebastian Cazares Marcanthony Rafael Babich, Ismael “Smiley” Valdez, Dimar Ruiz, and Trey Durden make up the leadership of Real Generation Z.
Babich maintains that meeting people on their level is the only way to make progress. “It’s very important to have [open discussions] because people are so close-minded nowadays, that if you hear one thing that you do not agree with, you’re gonna close your ears. You’re not gonna want to actually make real change.”
Babich is multiracial, and says when he first moved to Santa Clarita from Las Vegas, Nevada, he did have a few bad experiences with the local cops, but he stands behind the group’s main sentiment.
“There needs to be an understanding between us. We’re not saying, ‘You have to be backing us completely,’ but there has to be a middle ground,” Babich said.
The peaceful protests in Santa Clarita have proven that the community is more than capable of making the effort to work together to eradicate social injustices.
Byron Davis, a resident of Los Angeles since 1989, came out to the event in order to have constructive conversations.
“I truly want to see a strong dialogue where hopefully people of differing positions can start to see the validity and the truth collectively that can emerge,” Davis explained.
He hopes that the current momentum of the Back Lives Matter Movement will push the community to work together and make positive changes.
”As long as there’s ignorance, as long as there’s hate, and as long as there’s fear, there’s always going to be a wedge that divides people. Ultimately we are all part of humanity.”
“Real Generation Z” was founded with having these conversations in mind and extending an olive branch is their top priority.
Trey Durden, another organizer, says that everyone’s opinion is valid in the name of education.
“We want to invite people openly, we don’t have any hate towards anybody. We welcome all different viewpoints to talk about their experiences,” Durden said.
The group itself has become very close, and Prieto says that being involved has been a profound experience.
“We’re meant to be together here, with all of us, making this change for the better; for the future. I got brothers overnight.”
Another attendee, Rylee Marcotte, was raised by two police officers, and that spirit of togetherness drew her to their cause, echoing Prieto’s sentiment.
“The energy that is around, you can feel the aura.”
She says things are never going back to normal.
“We aren’t going back to how we were before the Coronavirus. Things are changing to where we are now going to be so more accepting and aware of what’s going on and I think that’s a beautiful thing for the world to go through.”
The Black Lives Matter movement has become the world’s largest civil rights movement, with all 50 states and at least eighteen countries involved in public protests.
Real Generation Z has become a family of individuals fighting for justice, and doing it with love.
Prieto says that this generation is doing what’s never been done before.
“Z is the last letter of the alphabet, and we are the last generation that’s gonna put up with racial discrimination, and bigotry. We are the last generation that’s gonna put up with hate. We are going to fight this war with love and education, and we’re going to change the world forever. We’re gonna see this world turn into a beautiful place to call home, and we’re going to make it better.”
You can find Real Generation on their Instagram @realgenerationz.