BY JACOB MOLNAR AND PATRICK NAGY
It’s a Wednesday afternoon in Albany, the weather is brisk and a little windy, like any northeastern winter day. My graphite blue Nissan Versa sits in the parking lot of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. As I lock the doors, I stroll towards the Empire State Plaza, side by side with one of the most notable student activists in the Capital Region. We discuss school, specifically teachers, as most seniors in high school would, approaching the revolving doors encompassing the underpass that is The Plaza.
You can find three things that relate directly to Thea Mouzakes on the walls as you walk through the revolving doors and into the Votes for Women exhibit at the New York State Museum; one is a statement from when the Museum interviewed her. A lavender canvas holds a quote from Mouzakes which reads; “I felt very helpless through the election because I’m too young to vote, but being at the march showed me that resisting and practicing my rights to assemble and protest are just as important.”
The exhibit also contains a sign that Mouzakes made to commemorate the women’s movement and a sign with a picture of Mouzakes’ mother which reads, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” is written with intricate penmanship, in capital red and blue letters.
Most importantly, at the very beginning of the exhibit, there is another purple canvas highlighting the donors to the Votes for Women exhibit. On the left hand column, the second name down is Alethea Mouzakes, her full name. As she approaches this sign, she lights up and smiles at this form of recognition she’s received for her contributions.
“It’s so cool seeing my name up there, but there’s so much more to do out there,” she said.
All of her life, Mouzakes has been passionate about what she believes in, regardless of the topic at hand. When a rally was held at a local school for then presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in April of 2016, the end of her sophomore year in high school, she attended, hoping to learn more and become more informed about the feminist movement. While the event did allow her to display her pride, it also “sparked her to to speak out and stand up for what she believes in,” she said.
As we continue along the walls, we stop at each piece, admiring how far women in the United States have come to earn their rights and the history behind the movement. We approach a segment where the story of Alice Paul, one of the most well known suffragists and feminists to date, is projected on the wall. Off of the top of her head, Mouzakes is able to paint a general picture of Paul’s life as an activist, telling me she was arrested several times and had to be force fed at one point to counter the hunger strikes she would partake in.
From the women themselves to the objects in the museum, to even how the museum acquired the materials, Mouzakes’ vast knowledge of everything didn’t fail to amaze me.
No matter what she says, you can feel the passion flow throughout her words. The members of the New York State Museum felt it too, inviting her to discuss improvements to the museum on three separate occasions.
Unlike the strong and serious demeanor she takes when it comes to societal issues, most people have the pleasure of seeing the often joyous, smiling version of Mouzakes within Shenendehowa High School. During our excursion to the state museum, the goofy side in her appears when we come across The Fist, a unique piece of artwork made of plaster, by Alice Morgan Wright. Judging by the name, the work is supposed to look like a tightly shut hand.
“Yeah, that doesn’t look like a fist, dog,” Mouzakes says, impersonating the famous Randy Jackson, trying but failing to contain her giggles.
Senior Jack Bold said Mouzakes is funny and extroverted.
“I would say that she is always smiling, which easily leads to laughs; it’s easy to talk about anything with her,” he said.
“She makes you see everything differently than how you would normally see it on your own,” said senior Jess Salmon. “She emphasizes the importance behind what she is fighting for.”
“When I think about it, I feel like she thinks that … rather she knows that she has the power to do something, and I know that she actively wants to make a change, and the only way to do that is to get involved, so that’s her way of doing it: by being so active where others aren’t and trying to make the difference that she wants to make,” senior Jason Golden said.
Mouzakes wants to make sure students are informed about issues in their community.
“Most people my age aren’t informed about these kinds of issues,” she said. “My goal is to get people to talk about these real world issues and effectively speak out, like myself and these other powerful women.”