momo chang

journalist

Youth Activists of Color

March 16th, 2011

Here’s to the next generation activists, particularly who organize youth of color or are youth activists themselves. See the three profiles (click on “articles” on the left side and “The Next Generation) I wrote for The American Prospect‘s special report, Colorlinded, on race in America. The profiles focus on DREAM Act “Trail of Dreams” walker Gaby Pacheco, Native American youth leader J’Shon Lee, and two Oakland-based organizations, Asian Pacific Islander Youth Promoting Advocacy & Leadership and Heal the Streets of the Ella Baker Center.

I interviewed more people than I was able to fit in the stories, including DREAM Act activist Carlos Roa, Najma Nazy’at of the Boston Youth Organizing Project (she’s in the slideshow), youth from the Ella Baker Center’s Heal the Streets program, professor Cathy Cohen, whose recent book, Democracy Remixed delves into all the key issues facing African American youth, and others. I met and talked with many amazing activists from local groups, from Oakland to Boston to Florida.

The thing I learned is that challenges that youth of color, and youth in general, face today are ever more daunting. Statistics for youth of color, from high black male unemployment rates to suicide rates of Native youth are more than heartbreaking. Drop-out rates for many youth of color, particularly Latino/Hispanic youth, are sky high at 50 plus percent in some regions. Statistic show that the quality of life and outlook for youth of color are not much better than before. While we may not see a huge national, cohesive movement right now, as Cohen stated, there is a lot of activism going on in our neighborhoods, cities and streets. Youth of color in fact are standing up to make their worlds better, fighting for many similar causes across the nation. And we should be thankful for that. These are our country and world’s next generation of leaders. The stories highlight just a few of many amazing activists and organizations working to better our communities and our world.