Changemaker: Jeff Messer


Jeff speaks into a megaphone to rally demonstrators. Photo by Emma Krajnik

Ciaran Cole

What defines activism or an activist to you regardless of the issue you are fighting for? 

An activist to me is someone who actively campaigns/fight for what they believe in. This could take many different forms from posting on social media to creating campaigns. The goal of one’s activism is to incite and create change for the greater good. I also believe that activists are not in it for personal gains like money, fame, and or power; but in it to make right the injustice(s) they are taking a stand against. 


What areas of activism are you involved in? 

Areas of activism I am primarily involved in are Black Lives Matter (BLM), LGBTQ+ rights and social change, and human rights. 


What clubs, extra-curricular, and events have you been involved in with being an activist over the last few years? 

Over the past few years, I have gotten involved in the leadership of UNICEF and Alliance club, Reconciling in Christ, and I have organized a large-scale BLM protest. 


Are you seeking a career or post-high school involvement in politics, civil service, or as an activist?

I am planning to major in political science and advocacy/social change as my stepping stones into a career in politics and activism. 


What was your motivation to join the movements that you did?

My motivation for LGBTQ+ rights and social change is to create a safe and just environment for future generations of LGBTQ+ people. As a kid, I faced many challenges due to homophobia that ultimately lead to me wanting to take my own life, other LGBTQ+ people that I know have gone through experiences far worse than I have, and there are countless cases of LGBTQ+ people being abused, kicked out of their home, and even murdered. There are also countless laws and policies that hurt the LGBTQ+ community as many states hate crime laws fail to cover sexual orientation and gender identity, the FDA does not accept blood from men who have been in contact with other men, conversion therapy is legal in many states, LGBTQ+ people are not covered in the affordable care act, etc. To start to create change I became the leader of Alliance Club at Appleton North and I am part of a task force called Reconciling In Christ which is a Lutheran organization that aims to make churches a welcoming and safe place for LGBTQ+ people. No person should have to deal with any of the atrocities I listed above (and more) due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. My wish and motivator are to be able to see a day in my life where LGBTQ+ people can live as happily and as equally non-LGBTQ+ people. 

I have always been in support of Black Lives Matter; however, the main catalyst for me getting involved was the unjust death of George Floyd. I was always one to post a thing or two about BLM on my Instagram story, but I concluded that just doing that was nowhere near enough. George Floyd was a wake-up call for me to really dig deep in my fight against racism, further educate myself, and take action against the racism that plagues Black people face around our nation. The disease known as racism has plagued our country’s history, institutions, and people from the very beginning. To eradicate this disease, everyone, no matter our differences, need to fight back and take a stand against racism. 

Danielle Zheng was one of the main reasons I got into human rights and other humanitarian efforts. She asked me if I wanted to help start UNICEF Club with her and I said yes immediately. I always wanted to help make the world a better place and UNICEF Club was the perfect opportunity for that. It was important to me to get involved because we are all citizens of the world and we must all help each other in times of need. A better future is where all people of the world help and uplift each other.


Have you done anything recently in regards to advocating for social justice or other causes? Like the Downtown BLM Appleton Protests or anything else?

At the end of the school year, in response to the unjust death of George Floyd due to racism and police brutality, I organized a large-scale BLM protest at downtown Appleton. This protest also featured many Black speakers as I wanted to amplify their voices and make their experiences heard. It was very important that we listen to black voices and really take in and learn from them. I wanted to reach as many people as possible, so I utilized the power of social media, local figures, and the media. The response on social media was swift as my Instagram post for the BLM protest attracted over 60,000 people. The day before the protest I met with a few black community leaders to get their input. I also had two interviews with Fox 11 and Action 2 News that evening to spread the word and give the Black community leaders the opportunity to speak to a wider local audience. The day of the protest my friends Lola, Faith, Kala, and I spoke to Action 2 News, Fox 11, and NBC 26 about our protest and what we’re fighting for. Action 2 News also provided live coverage of the event as well and the protest was also live-streamed on Facebook and Instagram. The protest attracted over a thousand people from all different backgrounds to listen to the speakers then march down College Avenue to the police station. At the police station, there was a moment of silence for George Floyd and then the march continued. Towards the end of the march, some members of the Appleton Police Department joined with us. This was a powerful, uniting, and eye-opening event for all people. It was very touching and emotional to see the community come together and support one another. The energy was unlike anything I have ever felt, and the Appleton BLM Protest was a successful display of our community’s solidarity with the black community and our stand against racism and police brutality.


In the short-term, what laws, practices or changes are you seeking in the community/world on the topic of your issue? Activists all want to create change, but what specifically do you want to be changed? 

In the short term for LGBTQ+ rights and social change, I am working to get my church the Reconciling in Christ designation. That would be a big breakthrough for LGBTQ+ Christians in our area so they have a safe and accepting place to worship. For Alliance Club, I am planning on having a fundraiser to help support the Trevor Project which is a national suicide hotline for LGBTQ+ youth. You can call 1-866-488-7386, text START to 678-678, or go to to get connected to their services. I would also like to broaden LGBTQ+ education outside of the club as well so more people are educated on the community and certain issues. 

For BLM I want to start a conversation and create a community plan with Black members of our community and the local government to help tackle racism and ensure equal treatment and opportunity. I would also like to extend this to other marginalized communities in our community and the Fox Cities. 

For human rights as of now, the plan is to just keep UNICEF going strong as that will give myself and others a good connection and way to help people around the world, signing petitions, and donating when I can.


What long-term goals do you hope to accomplish as a part of the movement(s) you are involved in? 

Long term goals I have are pretty intertwined with the movements I am a part of. I would love to be in a position where I can create and vote upon new laws that would assure equal opportunities, protection, and resources for marginalized groups like covering LGBTQ+ people in the affordable care act and help repeal many BICOP voter suppression laws that quickly went into effect recently with the ruling of Shelby County v. Holder supreme court ruling. I would also like to create community resources areas with high populations of BICOP and people in lower socioeconomic areas as they lack the proper resources and attention they need.


Are there any other messages or thoughts you want to leave the community with regards to activism and it’s importance in general?

Activism has paved the way for our future as past activists have fought to end slavery, challenge corrupt governments, give women the right to vote, desegregate schools, protect workers from exploitation, and many other important changes that have gotten where you and I are today. What are you going to do for the betterment of future generations?