Lift Every Voice (and Act)
The rapid response of students victimized during this year’s Valentine’s Day massacre at a Broward County school prompted me to acknowledge the role young play and have played in accelerating change in our society. During my lifetime, movements emanating from the Students Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Students for a Democratic Society(SDS), The Young Lords , Occupy Wall Street and current Dreamers , reinforce young people’s correct sensibilities to give voice to injustice and act against it. Over the last thirty years, their collective engagement have served to improve—if not save—the lives of many from war, racism, hunger and deportation.
What happens to this sense of outrage and social justice as we transition from youth-to-young adult-to-adulthood? And why do our young dreams for a better world disintegrate and then correlate to the size of our adult paychecks? Adults everywhere need to ask our young people for forgiveness for betraying the values of idealism and pluralism—among other equally important ones– that have contributed to the violent, racist and caste society they live in today. You don’t have to believe it, but such policies that create and perpetuate areas of concentrated poverty— NYCHA ?—support this premise by way of example.
Bending justice towards young people starts with keeping them safe: at home, in their community and especially at school. Metal detectors, random security checks and arming teachers send the wrong message to educators, families and students about the learning ecosystem as a safe place, free from fear and intolerance (the operative term here is free) .
Existing social problems are the product of entrenched networks of cause and effect and almost always led by adults. It’s time to flip the script and promote the notion that social solutions can be the product of cause and effect led by networks of local youth facilitated by caring adults who have integrity.
Young people are literally screaming for system change. They are telling us what the change should look like and more importantly, why change is needed now! As the adults, it is our responsibility to create a better system that keeps them safe while we educate them and recognize that they continue in the democratic tradition to shine a light on dysfunctional systems that fail to address social problems like gun violence. Let us lift their voices and act.
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