How the youth community plays a role in social justice

Black History Month

ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) — Many in the nation continue to fight for social justice each day. In the Twin Tiers, the youth community made it their role to make a change.

“We are the future,” said Halle Phillips, Co-Founder of Schuyler County Youth Political Committee. “So we have to take on the responsibility of going from kids in this country to being young adults that are going to shape the future.”

The Schuyler County Youth Political Committee is an organization to help encourage younger generations to use their voice and speak for those who can’t. Phillips said the organization is open to anyone in the community but they are focusing on those 16 to 35 years old.

“As far as voting goes, that age group doesn’t necessarily vote as much as the 65 plus, or even like the 45 plus,” Phillips said. “So we thought it would just be a good way to mobilize the youth in our community.”

The organization currently has between 50 and 70 participants in just Schuyler County.

“Even though we are a small community and a small town, we do play a role in systemic racism in the country,” Phillips said. “Change just doesn’t happen in the bigger cities, it’s got to happen in the small towns too.”

Phillips told 18 News, it’s harder to get older generations involved in change because they were brought up differently compared to younger generations.

“I think to educate the older generations it’s got to be by experience,” Phillips said. “They have to listen to African Americans about their experiences.”

The organization also worked with the Elmira/Corning NAACP chapter to educate themselves more and learn about the challenges minorities face.

Another group working to make a change, Unbroken Promise Initiative Inc. The non-profit is based in Ithaca, N.Y., and helps benefits individuals as young as eight years old to 70 years old.

“We help serve those in our community who have been disenfranchised, marginalized, and victimized by systemic oppression,” said Jordan Clemens, Founder of Unbroken Promise Initiative Inc.

Clemens said it’s important for our youth to speak out and use their voices.

“They’re not far removed from being a child and they remember what it was liked to be silenced by adults like parents,” Clemens said. “Even sometimes in your own home, sometimes in your own neighborhood.”

Clemens said the community needs to use their voices and can’t keep pretending oppression isn’t happening within our community.

“We can’t talk about and pretend what happened in Minnesota with George Floyd is only happening in Minnesota,” Clemens said. “Those things are happening right here in our own backyard.”

He said we are the product of our ancestor’s decisions but it’s the younger generations who control our future.

“What will be the catalyst for change is for people to be able to understand and know what happened in the past and not allow it to stagnate our progression going forward,” Clemens said.

“For there is always a light if only we’re brave enough to see it, if only we’re brave enough to be it.”

Amanda Gorman

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