Over the last two years I’ve spent a lot of time thinking or talking or writing about the role of young people in the age of Obama. Eager to change our country- that’s the mark of today’s youth, right? Incidences like what happened to Derrion Albert almost make me question if I’m just projecting what I hope to be true…almost. In the conversations that followed his tragic ending, I found the inspiration to write a piece like this.
I don’t think the statistics actually speak to the potential of our generation, yet it’s all anyone hears about.
The truth is we’ve already proven ourselves to be powerful…we elected Barack Obama based on our willingness to believe that much had been learned from our history. In the years ahead we need to arm ourselves with information, and sometimes that requires looking back to move forward.
In 1955, a 14-year-old boy named Emmett Louis Till was hunted down and killed for whistling at a white woman in Mississippi. He was brutally murdered and the images of his open casket funeral became the catalyst of the Civil Rights movement.
Young people were critical in this effort, forming organizations that aided in the effort to bend the moral arch of the universe towards justice. As we move forward and question what we can do, we should stop to research and reflect on what they did.
Students for a Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Students for a Democratic Society, The Berkeley Free Speech Movement, are our examples. They organized sit-ins and freedom rides to Mississippi to register voters. They took on racism, sexism and a senseless war. They weren’t perfect. Some went on to become radicals and advocated for the violence that they entered politics to stop. Yet, they serve as an example for us, of what we should avoid, and of our own capabilities.
What if we used music to educate? What if artists rhymed about policy and politics?
What if we organized, or found creative ways to leverage the Internet to inform one another?
What if we simply committed to respect each other?
I spent some time this week speaking to students at Fairfield Warde High School. One young lady passionately rejected the notion that she’s not “black enough” and turning to the girl beside her said “this is my best friend, just because I look different than her doesn’t make her better than me or me better then her.”
Now that, is change we can all believe in.
It’s a mentality that those who govern don’t hear enough of, another side of our generation. Young people rarely make the news unless something goes wrong. With the Internet, we can change that.
I’ve challenged those students, they’re going to do something between now and the Spring to make a difference in their community and I’m going to blog about it here once they do. Email me if you’ve got something going on at your school or in your town and I’ll write about it.
There’s no handbook that says how this is done, there’s only history to refer to, and our creativity to rely on.
Derrion could be the catalyst of our generation. So tell me, what will you do?