In the middle of what’s turning out to be an historic election year, Yara and Marcus – who play brother and sister duo Zoe and Andre (Junior) on the hit ABC comedy – are identifying which issues are most important to them and making sure their voices are being heard.
First up, climate change.
“I'm only 16 and have two more years before I can vote, and four more years until I can vote in the next presidential election,” Yara told ESSENCE in this exclusive interview. “However, being a part of Gen Z, many of my peers are voting age and are confused about whether their opinion matters or if their vote will even impact the outcome.”
While presidential candidates have seemingly forgot just how important outreach can be – both Generation Z and millennials have been critical of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump’s efforts to gain the important voting bloc – the youth will play a crucial role in who becomes Commander-in-Chief come November. In fact, ignoring millennial voters may prove fatal for both candidates. Exit polls from 2008 show that millennial voters preferred Barack Obama over Clinton. And this year, Clinton lost millennial support 71 percent to 28 percent against Bernie Sanders, according ABC. Trump’s numbers are even bleaker.
That power isn’t lost on the star teenagers.
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“I think that since I am living in America it is important for me to know what is happening within the political landscape,” Marcus told ESSENCE. “I believe even if you cannot yet legally vote, you can cast a strong vote with your voice.”
The 16 year old, who told ESSENCE he supports Clinton, is dedicated to making climate change issues a priority this election season by partnering with Defend Our Future, a nonpartisan campaign born out of the Environmental Defense Fund that commits to working with young people across the political spectrum.
For Marcus, a candidate who acknowledges climate change is someone he wants those with power to vote for.
“[Clinton] has set forth goals to reduce our countries oil consumption by one-third and plans to install more solar panels. I think that since we as a nation use so much energy, it is our responsibility to create ways to help reduce the toxic stress on the word,” he said. “I think that Hillary Clinton's climate control plan achieves this.”
Yara, who often uses her voice to speak out on social issues, also realizes the danger facing our one and only planet.
“Climate change has always been something I've been aware of, but is more relevant now than ever. Being in LA, our continuous heat waves are often times written off, but climate change is much more than unbearable summer days,” she told ESSENCE.
“It is most definitely a topic we discuss because it is an integral player in human rights issues. The crisis in Flint, flooding in Louisiana, the constant earthquakes are all a result of climate change. Coming from a family of humanitarians, it’s an unavoidable and necessary conversation.”
Yara, also a supporter of Clinton, is urging of-age youth to vote in the upcoming election to challenge a wide-held belief of apathy among millennials and Gen Z’s.
For Yara and Marcus, that’s simply not true.
“As someone who is half Black and half Iranian, Trump's rhetoric is scary and needs to be stopped, so if I can help rally the troops and increase voter turn out amongst my peers, trust me, I will find a way to stay involved,” Yara said.
“#IMWITHHER, but more than that, I am with the people that stand for the protected classes and who aim to right the constant injustices we have bared witness to.”
Marcus’ concern for the planet and for social issues isn’t a far departure from his character, who Yara describes as “very zealous environmental activist.” But will climate change be a topic for the hit show, already known for tackling issues of social justice, damaging stereotypes and taboo subjects on a very public platform?
Only time will tell.
“The new season is definitely going to be filled with a lot of important topics and climate change is one that I would love to see explored,” Marcus said.
“We over at black-ish do not plan on stopping the conversations that we have on each episode in regards to social issues. I feel like the core of our show is built on tackling contemporary topics and bringing them to an international level.”
The new season is sure to tackle some interesting issues in the current political and racial climate, Yara said, but don’t expect it to be too serious.
“I feel like all of the Johnsons would have a very different opinion on how 'going green' would affect their lives and the perks plus the many misconceptions of how climate change affects people. With the current socio-political temperature, you can bet it'll be addressed this season.”
For more information on how to defend your future, click here.