Our Very Own Great Neck Activists

Black Lives Matter protests have been around the country, with Generation Z on the front lines. (Source: CNN)

Black Lives Matter protests have been around the country, with Generation Z on the front lines. (Source: CNN)

With the new social justice movements gaining traction, social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram have led the way for a new generation of activists: Generation Z. North High seniors Aliza Fine and Chelsea Cohen opened up about their experiences as teen activists in Great Neck.

For Fine, the president of the GSA Club, her cause and advocacy evolved from the world she grew up in. She has always been around people who advocate for certain causes and friends who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community. She has also observed the ignorance of North High students. In a GSA-led advisory, students had the chance to anonymously ask questions about the community. One student wrote, “You can’t be gay if you’re Jewish.”

“Comments like these aren’t rare in Great Neck, where people use their religion to justify their discrimination against the community,” Fine said. Students often stick to their parents’ beliefs and aren’t open to educate themselves or to be educated, she continues. 

“There are some good parts of the school though,” Fine said. “We have a GSA and openly gay teachers, which isn’t something that a lot of school districts can say.”

Even with all the strange looks and comments, Fine said she receives, she has never regretted her work as an activist. “You can hate on me all you want, but I believe in what I do. [It’s worthwhile] when people come up to me and tell me that [I] made this room or this class a safer space where [they] feel more comfortable and okay to be [themselves].”

Cohen at a BLM protest in Great Neck. (Source: Instagram)

Similar to Fine, Cohen, one of the organizers of the Great Neck Black Lives Matter protests and part of the American Civil Liberties Union youth group, was motivated to be vocal and open about the BLM movement when she recognized the ignorance in Great Neck. Most of these experiences stem from her last name Cohen, which is a traditionally Jewish last name.

“People would act like I’m not a valid Jew,” Cohen said. “Sure, I’m not Jewish, but that’s not why they were making that assumption—it was always because I didn’t look like the rest of them.”

Cohen speaking at a BLM protest in Great Neck. (Source: Instagram)

She made her voice louder with the tragic death of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man who was shot while jogging. With Arbery’s death springing forth the BLM movement, Cohen turned to social media to make her voice heard during quarantine.

Her activism was also facilitated by two people in her life: her best friend Anaya and Mr. Mannebach, a social studies teacher. Anaya brought Cohen out of her shell, especially in Mr. Mannebach’s social studies class. Mr. Mannebech opened conversations about current events and taught about slavery and oppression. 

In his class, Cohen was astonished by how little her classmates knew about oppression. “We’re in 11th grade, about to [head] off to college in the real world. Why are we just hearing about this now?”

Cohen, usually a quiet student, began leading marches. When she looks back at the pictures, she gets a sense of pride and accomplishment. To her, these are some of her proudest moments.

However, the protests weren’t all sunshine and rainbows. “People were calling us terrorists and [saying] this isn’t our turf because they think there are no Black people here,” Cohen said.

Cohen at a BLM rally. (Source: Newsday)

Due to the lack of attention given to both causes in school, Cohen and Fine call for changes in the school system. Fine believes the school should have more inclusive sex education that teaches about same-sex relationships because not teaching about same-sex relationships “[puts forward] the idea that gay people don’t exist, and these conversations need to be opened up and discussed.”

Cohen leaves one message for the school: “Educate yourself first but don’t take long. It’s not hard to understand that this is a public school. There are students here whose lives are being invalidated and the longer you take to make a change or acknowledge that, the worse you’re making your students feel, and that is not okay.”


Reach out to Chelsea about these topics on her Instagram: @greatneckprotests

Learn more about BLM and LGBTQ+ rights using these links:



For other information on current events and how to help, refer to this website: