Debate student creates activist Instagram account


Photo provided by Jay Stubbs

Mitsuki Jiang wins 8th place in Novice Extemp at Texas City High School.

By Pallavi Gorantla, Bellaire High School

Her Instagram account boasts 2,500 followers. She posts every two to three days, spending up to an hour to create each post. Each of her posts focuses on a current event, from transgender rights to The Paris Climate Agreement. 

“My biggest goal for the account is to shine light on issues that aren’t recognized enough and also to become more open-minded myself,” sophomore Mitsuki Jiang said. “Even if I am busy with my schoolwork, this account pushes me to keep following the latest news and events and forming my own opinions as well.” 

Jiang started the Instagram account @thesimpleactivist in mid-August. She makes political graphics inspired by movements and protests around the world. Instagram was the perfect platform for her to combine her love for design with activism to support different causes.

Jiang learned how to create graphics and design posts after becoming the historian for Junior State of America and orchestra. She is also an active member of the Texas JSA Publicity Department. As a historian, she creates graphics and pictures for events like watch parties to post on the club’s Instagram and its story.

“One reason why I started my Instagram account was to push myself to increase my awareness about what’s going on in the world and understand different issues from a more in-depth perspective,” Jiang said. “I wanted to address what these movements are asking for: equality, justice, human rights, etc., which aren’t complicated requests. I also wanted to make the information I share easy to read and learn from.”

Jiang enjoys collaborating with different activists throughout the world. She recently featured a youth activist from Turkey for her work in various organizations.

“In my account, I’m pushing for what I think is right. A lot of the change I advocate for shouldn’t be political issues,” Jiang said. “They’re more ethical – it’s really weird to me that politicians debate about whether or not to give people healthcare, justice, or housing, etc.” 

Jiang added that she believes that it’s important to watch the news and educate yourself. She said there are many things that can be fixed in society and that everyone should start thinking about the things you can change, even if it is only in your community. 

Sophomore Mitsuki Jiang creates designs for the @thesimpleactivist Instagram account to advocate for human rights and movements. (Photo provided by Pallavi Gorantla)

“I think being an informed citizen and being aware of what’s going on in the world around us is really beneficial to everyone. This knowledge can be applied in so many ways,” Jiang said. “For example, when adults vote in elections, it’s important to know the candidates, and for the youth population, it’s the foundation of future leadership.”

Jiang believes that it is crucial to realize the importance of becoming involved in politics starting from a young age, especially during the coronavirus pandemic. 

“A big problem right now is that people don’t really pay attention to the news and what’s happening in the world,” Jiang said. “In the 2016 election, people didn’t vote because they didn’t think their vote counted or they didn’t like either candidate but this year people voted because they believed their rights could be at stake.” 

Jiang has linked multiple petitions in the @thesimpleactivist bio and encourages her followers to sign them as it only takes three seconds to sign a petition. 

“I began to grow this passion for activism when I joined debate in sixth grade at Lanier Middle School when I was told that it was an excellent program,” Jiang said.

In middle school, she competed in interpretation/speech events, which included Duo Interpretation, Humorous Interpretation, and Storytelling. These are speeches that are memorized and then told similarly to theater acting in competitions. 

“It took me some time to get the nerve to go to debate tournaments, but once I started, I was hooked,” Jiang said. 

When choosing her schedule for freshman year, Jiang was presented with a problem. Bellaire didn’t have interp events and instead offered only Public Forum Debate and Congressional Debate. She lacked experience in both and planned to stop because she was scared. She did not know a lot about politics.

“What I knew I’d miss about debate if I didn’t take it was the community it came with,” Jiang said. “Everyone on the team has always been so supportive and while there are a lot of late nights of prepping, I knew that I would really miss the people I met through debate.”

Jiang thought that she should try something new and chose Congress. Congressional Debate is an event where high school students imitate members of the United States Congress by debating pieces of legislation, like bills and resolutions. There are 30 bills for each docket and it teaches students about what’s going on in free trade agreements and criminal courts. Debaters research and write arguments for both sides and build their respective cases.

“I love to discuss and problem-solve for world issues. Congress is really about researching current events and understanding different perspectives, and the fact that we have to prepare 30 speeches every semester allows me to broaden my knowledge of the world,” Jiang said. “I like the spontaneity of Congress and how every round will always be different from the rest. So much is involved in the process of Congress, from writing legislation to researching and presenting or defending arguments.”

Jiang plans to continue debate for all four years because she loves competing and sees it as part of her identity. 

“In student congress, we pass more bills than in real Congress because people aren’t attached to parties so it’s not as corrupt,” Jiang said. “It’s important for people to be active because you are a citizen of the world, and if you want things to change, you need to take the initiative.”

Jiang enjoys the improvisation of debating and constantly rewrites and improves her prepared speeches to follow the most up-to-date news.

“Public speaking is a skill that is relevant in any field. It’s really important to be able to express your opinions, be open to other ideas, and be able to respond to questions fluidly,” Jiang said. “In terms of Congress, I think a lot of the success, aside from the work, comes from experience, and I want to compete in the circuit and continue to challenge myself to do better.”

Every Tuesday before quarantine started in March, Jiang went back to Lanier Middle School every week to coach the speech and debate students. She also judges their tournaments and helps them prepare for Nationals in June.

“It is a fun way to give back and pay it forward since many older students helped and inspired me when I started debate in middle school,” Jiang said.

Jiang has won multiple awards in Congressional Debate: 2020 CyFalls Tournament 1st place, 2020 TFA State Tournament semifinalist, 2020 NSDA National Tournament qualifier, 2020 Leander High School Tournament 1st place, 2020 Katy Taylor HS Tournament 4th place, 2021 Tournament of Champions Qualifier, TFA State Qualifier and is currently in the National Speech and Debate Honor Society with a Superior Distinction.

“Mitsuki is really dedicated and works hard at everything she does, so honestly it didn’t come as a surprise that she was an excellent debater,” sophomore Amy Park said. “The way she speaks and portrays her views in her speeches is something I admire a lot.”

Jiang has also been playing the violin and cello since she was 3 and both her parents and grandparents are violin teachers. She got into the Sinfonia orchestra, the highest level, in her freshman year. Tennis also runs in the family, and she practices with her dad on the weekends.

“One of my favorite parts of Bellaire besides the people is that there are so many opportunities,” Jiang said. “I co-founded the Ethics Bowl Club, and I am an officer in the orchestra, Junior State of America, Bellaire Young Progressives and Bellaire Young Democrats. I am also on the tennis team and I take Japanese.”

Jiang also co-founded the Bellaire Ethics Bowl club which promotes philosophical and ethical discussion. 

“I think that Ethics Bowl provides a multitude of perspectives to analyze and discuss,” Jiang said.“To me, it’s really important to have discussions about moral and ethical issues since they’re usually overshadowed by political discourse.”

Jiang started it to have a nonpartisan club that fosters good discussion between students. She hopes that it can grow and reach more Bellaire students and wants to work toward getting to Nationals. 

“One thing I’d personally fix is political partisanship,” Jiang said. “Right now, we see a lot of the government acting on behalf of their party affiliation instead of the American people. This leads to not a lot of productive legislation since most are more worried about power. It’s too bad to see Congresspeople only advancing causes for their party instead of actually listening to each other and having good discussions for the country.”

Jiang advocates about the pandemic, racial equality issues, presidential topics, police brutality, and more. Jiang wants to advance to finals at the Tournament of Champions, one of the most competitive American debate tournaments, and also Nationals. 

“People are always saying that the future generations will do it,” Jiang said. “But, I think it’s time that we take action.”

This story was originally published on Three Penny Press on December 14, 2020.