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April 2000
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Many young activists protested the World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting in Seattle last December.
Photo by Matthew Yarrow.
Reflections on "Resurgent Youth Activism"
by Shannon McManimon 1 | 2 | 3

YOUTH ACTIVISM is a subject we hope to explore further and help to foster. We would love to hear your thoughts, observations, and stories. Please contact us!

A few months ago, I was asked to write reflections on what some people are calling "resurgent youth activism." After several interviews, I wrote the article. But it seemed somewhat basic and trite. Then I read a 1986 article on youth activism. It was identical to mine: most youth appear apathetic; however, many have opinions, concerns, and fears (if only people would listen to them) and others have already been instrumental in bringing about social change. Fourteen years later, am I doomed to write the same article?

Fourteen years from now, will someone else again write the same article? More importantly, how can I and other young people help to bring about changes in "youth activism" that will truly be different? How can we work together to create a world where all people are accorded dignity, have enough food, shelter, medication, education, and other basic needs, are invited to participate in decision-making, and are able to live positively and creatively? How do we ensure that this vision is kept in the forefront of our lives, rather than "losing it" until the next "surge of youth activism" emerges?

First, we must acknowledge that today we still face the same "demons" as fourteen years ago: racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, corporatism, militarism. Some inequalities in the year 2000 (such as wealth disparities) are even more stark than those of 1986. Many of us myself included at times still fail to recognize oppression in all its forms and to understand its implications for organizing for change.

Yet perhaps today is the time to rewrite or prewrite the article of 2014, to insist that now is the time for social change and to ensure that this change is fostered in and valued by both those in their teens and twenties and those even younger. To do this, we must recognize that we come from different realities, we need to join together, we need skills and issues training, we need intergenerational dialogue, and we need to learn from and improve upon past activism.

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