Defending the Youth Economic Justice Movement

Youth activism is always very exciting. We were inspired by the dedication, creativity, and energy of the young people at the annual Youth Jobs Coalition (YJC) rally in Boston. The participants, thousands of Boston Public School students, spent their class recess working together to make the youth unemployment crisis more visible to the community. The YJC demonstration, staged in Boston's Financial District, publicized the connection between concentration of wealth and political power in the financial sector and budget cuts that directly affect funding for youth jobs.

The absence of job opportunities is making it difficult for young people to build skills for future success and earn money to help their families. Young people of color are experiencing the greatest struggle. Black teen unemployment, for example, is nearly twice as high as White teen unemployment, which is deepening the racial economic divide.

Angie Auguste and Princess Mansaray led lobby day trainings for youth activists at the Massachusetts State House as a part of the YJC day of action.

We were disappointed, though not surprised, to see that the first to comment on our posts of support were skeptics who questioned the merits of the teens' efforts. As one Facebook user opined, "maybe being on the streets applying for jobs would have been more productive."

If only it were that simple. Our reply:

In real terms, unemployment may be upwards of 80% higher than reported when we factor in underemployment. Teen unemployment is at a remarkable high, with Black teens faring worst. This should be a concern to all of us because of the many social ills connected to poverty and extreme inequality. We view the actions and continued efforts of these young people through the Youth Jobs Coalition and other groups as a sign of hope. They are making a choice to work together in peaceful demonstration to address an economic system that's falling short, with inefficient allocation of public resources driven by a concentration of wealth and power. We hope you will consider that, in addition to solid individual initiative, we'll need systemic remedies to unemployment and other economic struggles. The momentum for change won't be generated in board rooms and legislative sessions alone. To make the problems and solutions more visible, we have to get some feet on the street with a unified message.

As banal as it sounds, young people are our future. Peaceful protest has helped to generate positive change throughout U.S. history. Should we not encourage the youth community to be more engaged in this way?

Top photo c/o Steve Schnapp

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