This article is a sponsored collaboration between Depop and PAPER

With America in the midst of a political and social upheaval, the youth of this country has given us all hope for its future. After all, it was largely tech-savvy Gen-Z and Millennial activists who amplified the Black Lives Matter Movement across hundreds of thousands of digital screens this year. And in 2018, it was likewise high school students who mobilized and staged anti-gun violence demonstrations and walkouts all over the country. Then there's the young climate activists like Greta Thunberg and Xiuhtezcatl Martinez who've demanded that our aging political leaders be held accountable for the planet they leave behind for the rest of us.

Sure, it's historically been young people who've failed to make it out to the voting booth on Election Day. But that's all changing thanks to Zoomers and Millennials, who outvoted Boomers and older generations in 2016 and again in the 2018 midterms. Four years later, even more of this generation has reached voting age — one-tenth of all eligible voters — and early figures indicate they intend to make their voices heard. There's no understating the gravity of this Presidential Election: the winner will have the power to shape the course of the United States for a lifetime, from appointing Supreme Court justices to tackling climate change.

With just days until the 2020 Election, PAPER has teamed up with Depop to find out what issues are driving their biggest influencers and top sellers to vote this year. There are common themes, of course, with nearly all of our interviewees naming Black Lives Matter and protection for LGBTQ+ citizens as key issues. Some pointed out the very real intersections of racial justice with economic and environmental justice, while others emphasize that a Biden presidency is only the first step in reimagining a more equitable America.

From singer Rebecca Black to actor and trans activist Miles McKenna, here's why DePop's young creatives are all getting out to vote — as should you.

Why is it important to vote this year and what are the key issues motivating you, personally, to vote this year?

Most simply, I am motivated to vote by the possibilities of no longer having Trump as president and of electing more progressive candidates to serve in Congress and local government. I am also motivated by imagining a future after a Biden presidency where there is more opportunity for enacting progressive change. While the issues are not new, recent efforts to address racial injustice, healthcare, climate change and even voter suppression demonstrate that there is momentum for making radical changes in our society.

What do you think is the defining social, economic, or political issue for your generation and why?

While my generation has differing political views, I along with many others believe that the issues centered by the Black Lives Matter movement should inform our efforts to imagine and create a better future. BLM and other liberation movements have powerfully demonstrated how racial, environmental and economic injustices are deeply connected.

"Your opinions need to be heard by those in power."

What is your hope for the results of the November 2020 election?

I hope that with the November 2020 election, more progressive candidates win seats in Congress and various state legislatures. I hope that Texas Republicans lose and I hope that Trump loses. I hope that Biden wins, but I also hope that we recognize that this will not solve everything — we should not seek a "return to normal," but rather, we must grapple with the fundamental societal issues which underlie many of the crises of our current day.

Have you been vocal about your decision to vote with your friends and family? What has been the reaction and feedback?

My family and I are very vocal with each other about how we vote. In terms of who we vote for, my family and I pretty much align. The major difference that has come up in the lead up to November is our excitement levels. Some are excited and optimistic about a post-Trump world, where others are less enthusiastic about Biden, but still feel that voting is a "civic duty."

What would you say to your followers who are perhaps voting for the first time or are still on the fence about voting?

Your opinions need to be heard by those in power. If you haven't voted before, or maybe are interested in voting but aren't feeling excited for this election, I would encourage you to research what is on your ballot. If you live in a state without mail-in voting and have to vote in person, there are websites where you can view a sample ballot (like www.vote411.org, for example). I encourage everyone to research the candidates and propositions on your ballot, because the November election is about a lot more than the presidency — it's also local politics and community issues.

Why is it important to vote this year and what are the key issues motivating you, personally, to vote?

I think it's important we vote out the backwards momentum of this administration, which has wasted no time in enthusiastically attempting to erode civil and human rights for any and all groups they consider "Other." There's endless damage being done — widespread corruption, handouts for billionaires while the poor and working class suffer, and extremely fascist government tendencies. Plus, the nonstop endorsement of white supremacy. A lot of marginalized people won't survive another four years of this party having the unchecked systemic power and the platform to promote their hateful values.

At the same time, I know the Democratic ticket is not nearly as progressive as a lot of people hoped. I hope we get the chance to organize and participate in moving the new administration in a more progressive direction. I wish I were more motivated by voting someone in, than by voting this whole administration out. The reality is, every single social justice movement is being attacked under this presidency. Voting to me is important this year so we can have the cooperation of leadership in expanding our rights, instead of constantly having to guard them from being stripped away.

What do you think is the defining social, economic, or political issue for your generation and why?

I think our overarching strength is comprehensive racial justice. While anti-Blackness and white supremacy are clearly issues that are not specific to our generations, it feels like we aren't as eager to ignore harsh realities and accept everything at face value. More people are learning that we can't meaningfully talk about or organize around any social justice issue if Black liberation is not centered, as well as Indigenous people's needs.

We can't talk about immigration rights without acknowledging that Black immigrants are systematically more vulnerable — facing higher rates of deportation and being denied asylum. How can we claim we're feminists and ignore that Black Trans women face disproportionately high rates of sexual abuse and violence? Environmental justice discourse has historically neglected how the destruction of the environment impacts Black communities. In context of reproductive rights—Black women face maternal and infant mortality rates twice that of white women in the US. From disability justice, food justice. economic justice, criminal justice reform, access to mental health resources, adequate housing, and healthcare—there is no issue that is not touched by the way this country was designed to harm Black people.

There are so many young people expanding the way we talk about these issues — particularly Black and Indigenous women and trans/non-binary people. There's so many amazing leaders. They're bending social media to their benefit. Younger generations are using their platforms to talk about racial justice in its many forms and intersections — to spread awareness, share resources and calls to action. I think we're opening up the dialogue that a lot of the previous generations were not ready to have.

"If I don't vote is it helping the communities I claim to be an accomplice to?"

What is your hope for the results of the November 2020 election?

Well, just to speak it into existence: I hope 45 gets voted the hell out.

Beyond political wins, I hope that even with a Biden-Harris presidency, people will not get complacent. A lot of people like to complain about this President as if all the problems start and end with him. Realistically, he's got an entire group of people behind him that decided white supremacy wasn't a compromise, but a plus. These people still hold power and aren't going away. A Biden-Harris presidency cannot realistically fix all that decay. We have a responsibility to push these candidates in order to represent our most marginalized communities and to challenge the opposition that was demonstrated by the current administration. When the urgency is spent up, the news is no longer signaling you to care and enough comfort sets in that you don't have to think about things that don't affect you — I hope people can keep dialing back in. I hope voting isn't the first and last bit of activism you engage with.

Have you been vocal about your decision to vote with your friends and family? What has been the reaction and feedback?

Beyond my close friends and family, there has been some resistance — I think the most difficult conversations I've had are with un-affected left-leaning people who have really theoretical or individualistic reasons for why they aren't voting and go as far as to try and convince other people not to vote as well. Those interactions weigh pretty heavy on me. There's been this nauseating level of privilege to those conversations that's hard to point out.

With that being said, it's important to hold space for marginalized people who don't vote based on valid critiques, lived experience or personal practice. I've seen, in real life and on social media, white people try to scold Black people on why they have to vote — it's cringe-worthy. It's just different when you're living it or doing the groundwork. Not everyone is coming from the same place. It's either a waste of energy or in a lot of cases just not our place to try and shame people into voting. You can only really encourage people or point them in the way of resources if they're open to it.

What would you say to your followers who are perhaps are still on the fence about voting?

If you're on the fence, the decision is entirely up to you. I can tell you a dozen reasons to vote and someone else can tell you the same amount not to. No one will be able to change your mind unless you allow it or want it changed. When I feel a little hopeless sometimes it helps just to question myself and put my values in order. Maybe these questions will help you decide what's right for you.

Who does it benefit if I choose not to vote?

If I don't vote is it helping the communities I claim to be an accomplice to? Does it help the most vulnerable people I am in community with? Am I not voting because I believe I am protecting those communities?

What do leaders and other activists in these communities have to say about it? What do leaders and activists that have inspired me to action and educated me say about it? Are they passionate about any choices that are on the ballot, from a local to national level?

Does the act of not voting only serve to cement my theories and political beliefs? Am I working towards change in my community, or otherwise involved in activism? Would voting be my only political act?

Why is it important to vote this year and what are the key issues motivating you, personally, to vote this year?

This year's vote is so important for this country to grow and heal from the past 4 years of leadership (or lack thereof.) As we have all seen from legislation to insensitive tweets, our president has voiced so many prejudices during his time in office. Which has allowed many people to feel comfortable performing the same type of hate in their own homes, communities, and businesses. As an LGBT person, my safety is in jeopardy when it comes to the reversal of the civil rights act that says transgender people are protected in the workplace. As well as the drastic change to civil rights for LGBTQ+ students under the Trump Administration's Department of Education. And the elimination of Obama-era regulations that prohibited discrimination by health providers on the basis of sex stereotyping and gender identity. But the reversal of basic human rights doesn't end there for my community nor many others. We need to vote. We need equality.

What do you think is the defining social, economic, or political issue for your generation and why?

Our generation is the first to be raised with this level of technology. With the ability to share our thoughts within seconds to the world, we are also able to hear from people we would never see in our own communities. No longer are we blind to what is going on in other communities and with people we have never met. I think our generation has these tools to strengthen our empathy and bring real change and equality for all.

"Our generation has these tools to strengthen our empathy and bring real change and equality for all."

What is your hope for the results of the November 2020 election?

I hope the result of the 2020 election is a wake-up call for everyone that praised Trump-Era legislation that demonized human beings. We are long past the days of apathy when it comes to human rights, and I hope Biden and Harris bring a new era of positivity.

Have you been vocal about your decision to vote with your friends and family? What has been the reaction and feedback?

Online I have comedically combated the injustices we have seen from the Trump Administration since he banned transgender people from military service just months after taking office. In recent years I have been even more vocal with facts and encouragement to stay informed and vote! Growing up in a republican household I have seen how hate from the white house (specifically against LGBTQ+ people) finds its way into households and turns into hate against our youth. We can change that.

What would you say to your followers who are perhaps voting for the first time or are still on the fence about voting?

To all my followers who haven't voted before, WE NEED YOU. I know it's scary doing something for the first time (especially something that can't just be done online.) But we all were raised with superhero movies and played pretend like we're going to save the world. Now is our chance to do just that!

Why is it important to vote this year, and what are the key issues motivating you, personally, to vote this year?

I view voting as a right and a privilege that every able American should exercise. The key issues influencing me to vote are freedom with what people want to do with their bodies, policies that protect BIPOC, and healthcare security. We need someone in Office that we can apply pressure on towards these issues—a leader who will create lasting and significant change in these critical areas.

What do you think is the defining social, economic, or political issue for your generation, and why?

I believe the defining social issue for our generation is equality, Gen Z believes in equality on all spectrums. We view systemic racism, the environment, healthcare, classism, sexism, etc. as intersectional. Each of these issues overlapping each other one way or another; these issues are a focal point that our generation is determined to change.

"I view voting as a right and a privilege that every able American should exercise."

What is your hope for the results of the November 2020 election?

My hope for the 2020 election is that as a society, we would move towards the middle. I feel that we are operating under leadership with extreme views, which is causing a lot of polarization and division. I hope that a switch in leadership styles would help America thrive on being a place that is a melting pot of culture and people with equality as a foundation.

Have you been vocal about your decision to vote with your friends and family? What has been the reaction and feedback?

I've been incredibly vocal with my decision to vote. Many of my friends and family have felt that voting this year would not be helpful since they don't like their options. I explained that their vote goes further than presidential, and their vote affects more than just them.

What would you say to your followers who are perhaps voting for the first time or are still on the fence about voting?

Anyone feeling as though "your vote doesn't count" or "it doesn't make a difference" stems from a place of privilege. Our vote affects the future of marginalized communities that may not have the freedom or opportunity to vote for whatever reasons. It affects underaged Americans, incarcerated, undocumented workers, etc.. We need to start thinking bigger than just how this election affects us and start to think about how this election will affect others.

Why is it important to vote this year and what are the key issues motivating you, personally, to vote this year?

Voting this year is important to me because it's the first presidential election I am able to participate in. I believe that voting is a great tool and vehicle for change. Some key issues motivating me to vote this year are: climate change, affordable and accessible health care and an emphasis on the caring and well-being of marginalized communities.

What do you think is the defining social, economic, or political issue for your generation and why?

I do not think there is just one (sadly). But, I do believe that climate change and the current state of our environment has caused much concern for a lot of us. Environmental change is something that has not been in my generation's control for a long time, but we are the ones feeling the detrimental effects.

What is your hope for the results of the November 2020 election?

My hope for the results of the November 2020 election is change, positive change. I hope to see real change in relation to our planet and our society.

"I hope to see real change in relation to our planet and our society."

Have you been vocal about your decision to vote with your friends and family? What has been the reaction and feedback?

I have been pretty vocal about it, and they have all been super supportive and on the same page.

What would you say to your followers who are perhaps voting for the first time or are still on the fence about voting?

I'd say to get out and have your voice heard. Voting isn't the only tool that can enact change, but it is definitely an important one.

Why is it important to vote this year and what are the key issues motivating you, personally, to vote this year?

America's themes of freedom have recently been dimmed due to poor leadership. Coming from a creativist standpoint, I value the freedom I have in America to express myself in every outlet, whether that be in dress or activism. Everyone deserves the same amount of freedom, whether you be trans, gay, or a person of color. It has been in recent years that the share of freedom has been obstructed by leaders who find others less deserving of liberty. I feel the need now more than ever to vote for a leader who promotes equality instead of division. Voting allows me to express my voice and advocate causes I find important such as freedom in the pursuit of happiness.

What do you think is the defining social, economic, or political issue for your generation and why?

Education! Several Americans for generations have not comprehended the importance of voting due to the US government's lack of funding for education. Low income communities do not have the appropriate education budget to supply their young populations with proper schooling that will ultimately allow them to escape hostile living conditions. Many dropouts join drug trafficking operations that frequently incarcerate them for the rest of their lives all because the education system failed them. Because they were never appropriately educated, they never learn the importance of voting, and so the cycle continues. These are the issues we are dealing with. We must vote to educate all of America so no more citizens meet this fate and so they too can understand the importance of voting.

"America's themes of freedom have recently been dimmed due to poor leadership."

What is your hope for the results of the November 2020 election?

I really hope a leader is elected that not only resolves the American pandemic, but reunites all of America's citizens . For the past four years, the United States have been far from "united". We have seen one of the biggest divisions amongst Americans since the Jim Crow era, so drastic that some political party members will even refuse to wear a mask because the opposite party advocates for a national mask mandate. America has not always been this black and white. We need a leader who will restore safety and bring color back to the land of the free. No more boxes confining everyone to be either blue or red; we must allow everyone to choose their own color, to paint outside the lines.

Have you been vocal about your decision to vote with your friends and family? What has been the reaction and feedback?

Absolutely. I have been the annoying friend asking everyone if they are registered to vote. A lot of my friends and family are proud to see me encouraging others to exercise their constitutional rights. We were given these rights to protect justice.

What would you say to your followers who are perhaps voting for the first time or are still on the fence about voting?

I would remind first time voters that we have the power to create our own destiny. We should take advantage of our right to vote to be the change we want to see in the world. If there is a policy or law a young voter would like to change, it is important to vote now, because change does not happen overnight, change is a progress. The leaders we choose today will make decisions that affect tomorrow.

Why is it important to vote this year and what are the key issues motivating you, personally, to vote this year?

To me, there is just too much at stake right now to not be involved and actively working to understand the issues facing us every day in this country. These are issues that WILL shape the way our futures roll out, whether for better or worse. As vital as it is to protest what we see is unjust and rally for the issues we care about, our vote is an integral piece in seeing the changes we want to see actually begin to be implemented as legislature.

What do you think is the defining social, economic, or political issue for your generation and why?

I am a part of Generation Z, and I think Gen Z is continuously proving itself to be deeply complex in terms of the issues everyone in this generation cares about deeply. What Gen Z wants to see is fair and equal treatment and opportunity for every person in every sense — regardless of gender, sexuality, race, or any other defining feature they cannot control. Many of us in this generation have in common a distinct sense of open mindedness, inclusivity and empathy towards each other.

"There is just too much at stake right now to not be involved."

What is your hope for the results of the November 2020 election?

I hope to see record turnout from our youth voters across the board. I see everyone being so engaged and well-informed online right now, and that is so exciting and hopeful. I hope to see those elected be ones who are committed to breaking down systemic racism and discrimination on both local and federal levels, and who take the issues of climate change and the health and safety of all people right now seriously.

Have you been vocal about your decision to vote with your friends and family? What has been the reaction and feedback?

I am very vocal with my friends and family about my decision to vote, and I have had quite a few conversations that have been difficult because both sides disagree so drastically on specific issues surrounding what's happening in our world right now. What I've learned in these conversations is that while it can be hard not to spend the entire time screaming at each other, the more you can take the time to actually listen to the other person and let yourself gain new insight on why they believe what they do, the more productive the conversation can actually be in the long term for both parties.

What would you say to your followers who are perhaps voting for the first time or are still on the fence about voting?

It's understandable and easy to feel overwhelmed right now with the amount of issues at hand, as well as just how jarring this election process has been overall. You are not alone in that. Don't be afraid to ask questions about the voting process, or about specific candidates or issues on the ballot, or anything regarding the election. What is so important to remember is that time and time again, history has proven that when we show up and do our part, the changes we can make with the power we have are practically limitless. Vote for you and the future you want to see for yourself.

From the start, 2020 has felt like a pivotal turning point for America. Ahead of what could be the most consequential election in our lifetimes, many of us are starting to re-think our behaviors, question old assumptions and challenge longstanding institutions. Through it all, there are plenty of reasons to feel inspired.

Highlighting compelling people in pop culture, politics and the arts, PAPER will examine America in all of its splendor, grit and complexity, and search for the stories that give us hope, compel us to be better versions of ourselves and to understand America as the multi-faceted, dynamic place — and idea — that it is.

Photos courtesy of Depop

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