This Broward student is too young to vote. But that hasn't stopped him from becoming an activist
The current political climate in Florida is pushing some young people to get more involved in politics — in a way many adults never do.
Eric Franzblau is still a couple years away from being able to vote, but that hasn’t stopped the 16 year old from getting involved in political organizing. Eric says one of the moments that lit the fire of his activism was the murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020.
“That sort of had a big effect on everybody, including me,” he said. “Learning history and noticing different current events and seeing inequality occur in this country … it kind of just fueled my drive.”
Since then, the sophomore at Plantation High School in Broward County has become active with a local chapter of Dream Defenders, the racial justice group founded in the wake of the killing of Trayvon Martin in 2012.
Eric’s activism took him to the state capital for the first day of the 2023 Legislative Session to protest Florida lawmakers’ efforts to remake public education.
"A lot of my teachers are scared of what's happening. They're afraid of losing their jobs.. A lot of [students] know the conditions that they are in and that their education is in. They're – for lack of a better word — they're pissed off.”Eric Franzblau
“I will be in the fight,” Eric said during a rally outside the Leon County Courthouse last week. “I will continue to stand … within educational institutions in Florida, standing in solidarity with colleges, with the other high schoolers.”
Surveys show that members of Gen Z — those born after 1996 — are the most racially and ethnically diverse cohort yet and on track to be the most educated. This generation is also more likely to be supportive of larger government and more expansive societal changes to address racial inequality in the U.S.
Back home in Broward County, Eric told WLRN that he, his classmates and teachers are feeling the effects of new state laws that are restricting how race, identity and history can be talked about in schools.
“A lot of my teachers are scared of what's happening. They're afraid of losing their jobs,” he said. “Speaking of students, a lot of them know the conditions that they are in and that their education is in. They're – for lack of a better word — they're pissed off.”
Eric says that’s what pushed him to organize a walkout at Plantation High last month, as part of a coordinated campaign at schools and college campuses across the state to protest a slate of proposed policies aimed at centralizing the governor’s control over the state’s public education system, banning diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives at public universities and restricting access to healthcare for transgender Floridians.
“What I noticed during organizing the walkout is that there is — among students and teachers — there is raw drive in order to improve the conditions that they're in,” Eric said. “My job is just to make sure that that energy is harnessed.”
At a time when some marginalized people are rethinking their futures in the state of Florida, Eric says he plans to stay and keep organizing — and says he hopes to one day become a teacher.