Sometimes simply recording videos or images of violence and human rights abuse is all it takes to change things for the better. Or perhaps it's simply documenting one person's story and then showing that to the world. Here are a few of those who put themselves on the line, with a camera in hand, in order to make a difference.
Their connection is romantic comedy worthy.
When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.
The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.
Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.
“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”
Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.
Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲♬ iris -
“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”
Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”
The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.
"No the chills I got omggg."
"This is the cutest thing I have watched."
"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"
In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.
Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.
They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."
"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.
It never fails. After a tragic mass shooting, social media is filled with posts offering thoughts and prayers. Politicians give long-winded speeches on the chamber floor or at press conferences asking Americans to do the thing they’ve been repeatedly trained to do after tragedy: offer heartfelt thoughts and prayers. When no real solution or plan of action is put forth to stop these senseless incidents from occurring so frequently in a country that considers itself a world leader, one has to wonder when we will be honest with ourselves about that very intangible automatic phrase.
Comedian Anthony Jeselnik brilliantly summed up what "thoughts and prayers" truly mean. In a 1.5-minute clip, Jeselnik talks about victims' priorities being that of survival and not wondering if they’re trending at that moment. The crowd laughs as he mimics the actions of well-meaning social media users offering thoughts and prayers after another mass shooting. He goes on to explain how the act of performatively offering thoughts and prayers to victims and their families really pulls the focus onto the author of the social media post and away from the event. In the short clip he expertly expresses how being performative on social media doesn’t typically equate to action that will help victims or enact long-term change.
Of course, this isn’t to say that thoughts and prayers aren’t welcomed or shouldn’t be shared. According to Rabbi Jack Moline "prayer without action is just noise." In a world where mass shootings are so common that a video clip from 2015 is still relevant, it's clear that more than thoughts and prayers are needed. It's important to examine what you’re doing outside of offering thoughts and prayers on social media. In another several years, hopefully this video clip won’t be as relevant, but at this rate it’s hard to see it any differently.
It's okay to have "curly hair."
Senior class president Zander Moricz was given a fair warning: If he used his graduation speech to criticize the “Don’t Say Gay” law, then his microphone would be shut off immediately.
Moricz had been receiving a lot of attention for his LGBTQ activism prior to the ceremony. Moricz, an openly gay student at Pine View School for the Gifted in Florida, also organized student walkouts in protest and is the youngest public plaintiff in the state suing over the law formally known as the Parental Rights in Education law, which prohibits the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3.
Though well beyond third grade, Moricz nevertheless was also banned from speaking up about the law, gender or sexuality. The 18-year-old tweeted, “I am the first openly-gay Class President in my school’s history–this censorship seems to show that they want me to be the last.”
However, during his speech, Moricz still delivered a powerful message about identity. Even if he did have to use a clever metaphor to do it.
Moricz told the audience, “I must discuss the very public part of my identity. This characteristic has probably become the first thing you think of when you think of me as a human being…”
“As you know, I…have curly hair,” he quipped, nonchalantly taking off his grad cap as the crowd began to clap.
If it’s not obvious now, it will soon become clear that “curly hair” is a euphemism for being gay. But it’s also about so much more.
“I used to hate my curls,” he continued. “I spent mornings and nights embarrassed of them, trying to desperately straighten this part of who I am. But the daily damage of trying to fix myself became too much to endure.”
A major criticism of Florida’s new law is that it potentially further discriminates against an already marginalized group. This can be especially damaging to mental health, and for young people in particular. It can be confusing to have a part of one’s reality so heavily politicized, not to mention at a time when that reality isn’t fully understood.
Moricz proceeded to praise a teacher who answered his questions when he didn’t have “other curly haired people to talk to,” highlighting the important role that an accepting community plays in shaping our identity and self-esteem.
“So, while having curly hair in the state of Florida can be difficult, due to the humidity, I decided to be proud of who I was, and started coming to school as my authentic self,” he shared.
Getting emotional, Moricz lamented, “There are going to be so many kids with curly hair who need a community like Pine View and they will not have one. Instead, they’ll try to fix themselves so that they can exist in Florida’s humid climate.”
The use of code words is sadly not a new concept for the LGBTQ community. And while Moricz made good use of clever wordplay, he still found the experience to be “dehumanizing.” Luckily, his speech was met with an outpouring of love from fellow students, who gave him a standing ovation.
Despite the disheartening challenge, Moricz considered the speech a “great finale” to his high school years and is more determined than ever to continue his advocacy by studying government at Harvard. Sometimes when you have something important to say, silence isn’t an option.