There is a saying that youth is wasted on the young. But that depends on how one’s youth is used. In recent years, the global community of young people have demonstrated they are willing to use their time, effort, energy and youthful zeal to do some pretty amazing things.
We saw it in 2011 with the rise of the Arab Spring—that revolutionary wave of demonstrations, protests and civil wars in the Arab world.
As the Arab Spring began to wind down, a new cause surfaced in the U.S. with the Occupy Movement. Young people woke up the nation with the message of economic injustice. Protestors called out the greed of the 1% who pay little if any income tax, ship jobs overseas and profit with the pensions and assets of the middle class. They drew a clear distinction between the greedy and the needy.
And now, with the civil unrest from the acquittal of Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, MO, for killing unarmed black teen Michael Brown, we’re seeing it again—a unparalleled demand for change and justice.
Folks are not backing down anymore. They are tired of seeing so many unarmed men of color killed by police, and walking away free. Once again, young people are leading the way.
The hip-hop culture has been a target of criticism by older generations. And some of it is justifiable—negative images of guns, drugs, materialism and violence in music videos are detrimental to young people.
But like most things, hip-hop is a mixture of good and bad. Out of hip-hop has come a generation of political activists who are changing the face of this nation. They mobilized youth for the Rock the Vote campaign in 2008. Their voter registration campaigns had a lot to do with President Obama being elected. The president also won in part because he spoke their language—technology.
Now, with social media and phones that can record anything in a matter of seconds, it’s becoming more difficult to hide injustice. Anyone with access to a mobile phone literally holds the power in their hands to literally change the world.
Without this technology, the real story behind Ferguson, police abuse toward demonstrators and journalists, might not have been told. The bold, consistent efforts of Ferguson demonstrators is the beginning of real change. To those who say the Civil Rights Movement is dead, I beg to differ. It is not dead, it is being reborn.
Ferguson has already changing the way policing is done. Police departments across the nation are now requiring officers to wear body cameras. In time, I believe these cameras will be worn by civilians as well, and could be especially useful for those marching on the front lines of social justice.
We are counting on young people to lead the way, and it is up to people in my generation to guide them. To make sure they have access to education, health care and the wherewithal to become a strong, vital part of our community.
As new classes of graduates come out of our high schools and colleges, they will be looking for opportunities to make a difference. It is up to us to give them the support and guidance they need to channel their passion and energy in the right direction.
Sometimes it seems injustice will never end. But I am betting on our young people to change the paradigm.