The Black Lives Matter movement has changed the country and shifted conversations about police, social justice and structural racism. Conversations that, honestly, should have been had a long time ago.
As each generation is raised in these turbulent settings, it becomes increasingly more difficult for parents, educators, and community leaders, to explain away the violence on TV. Especially as greater access to knowledge and information becomes a norm, our youth are positioned to be the change they want to see in the world. We need young people to bring bold ideas, fresh ideas, passion, and courage to these spaces and are seeing more and more young people raising their voices and proving to everyone that there’s no age limit for social change.
If young activists are to continue their work, educators must be willing to provide the resources and opportunities to do so. Students must be encouraged in taking a stand for an issue they believe in and be provided the communication, team building and organization skills to think critically and independently. A generation that isn’t resigned to compromise. However, this is just the first step.
At the end of the day “knowing” and “caring” is only part of the picture when it comes to social justice activism. Resources such as financial stability, access to technology, and sourcing of time have a significant impact on people’s ability to turn a grassroots social justice issue into social reform. Not all young people have access to programs that actually give youth a voice and a role in their communities. For instance, we recognize that families with lower income levels and from traditionally disadvantaged racial and ethnic backgrounds report having fewer access to high-quality after-school opportunities for their children in the after-school setting.
Many of the opportunities for engagement in social and political activism have come through after-school and youth development programs. Unequal access to such programs can make opportunities for greater engagement unattainable. The fact is, all movements, especially those created and led in BIPOC communities would benefit greatly from more prepared youth in order to create social change more effectively.
Here at CommCorp, we aim to build bridges and pathways for these young change-makers and give them the tools to support themselves and overcome structural barriers. Research shows that early employment translates to higher earnings, greater access to health care and stronger educational attainment, but teens are losing ground. Teen employment rates have declined dramatically and employers report that lack of soft skills are to blame.
This month, we celebrated not only Black History, but Black futures. Meet some of the change-makers from our program.
SSYI Youth and participants from the city of Brockton lead a peaceful protest to City Hall and spoke about the changes they want to see happen in the city. This is a highlight of the gathering. Video by: Anawan Street Productions.