A few weeks ago was the national student walkout for gun control. I saw groups of middle and high schoolers all over Center City holding signs, yelling, chatting, and resisting. Seeing them made me both extremely proud and sad. Proud, because it reminded me of the enormous debt of gratitude I have for this city and its students. I came here five years ago as a freshman in college. Since then, Philly has never stopped teaching me to advocate for myself and for my community. That’s why I’m still here.
But I also felt sadness, and that came from the fact that I know that students in Philadelphia have been organizing against injustice long before the March for Our Lives and rarely, if ever, receive the same acknowledgment for their efforts. No matter what, student activism and youth resistance run deep through these streets. Since almost all of you hail from Philadelphia or its surrounding counties, I think it’s only appropriate to uplift some of the incredible youth organizing that’s happening in this city. For this month’s blog, here’s a list of five (although there are many more) youth and student organizations that I hope you’ve heard of, and if not, I hope you take the time to get to know them a little more:
Philadelphia Student Union
Their Mission: The Philadelphia Student Union exists to build the power of young people to demand a high quality education in the Philadelphia public school system. We are a youth led organization and we make positive changes in the short term by learning how to organize to build power. We also work toward becoming life-long learners and leaders who can bring diverse groups of people together to address the problems that our communities face.
In Action: PSU organizers demand accountability to end school police violence.
Youth Art & Self-Empowerment Project
Their Mission: The number of teenagers under the age of 18 who are held in adult jails and prisons in Pennsylvania has increased exponentially over the last fifteen years. The Youth Art & Self-Empowerment Project (YASP) is building a youth-led movement to stop this trend by ending the practice of automatically trying and incarcerating young people as adults. Through its work in the Philadelphia jails, YASP provides space for incarcerated young people to express themselves creatively and to develop as leaders both within and beyond the prison walls. Young people who have been through the adult court system are at the forefront of YASP, leading the movement to keep teenagers out of adult prisons and to create new possibilities for youth around the city.
Their Mission: Stadium Stompers is a movement against Temple University’s plan to build a 35,000 seat football stadium in North Central
Philadelphia. This is the first time in recent history that students and resi-
dents have come together to fight on common ground. We believe that the long-term residents should be treated with respect. We call for an end to the stadium’s plan and school-driven gentrification.
In Action: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Bw4f3QzqVu_uWFppV2dGVmxQX1U/view
Girls Justice League
Their Vision: GJL seeks to change the directional so that girls are directly impacting the systems that hold such enormous power over their futures. All too often, girls, young women and those who identify as female, particularly girls of color and those from low income communities, find the direction of their lives impacted and dictated by myriad systems and institutions, including juvenile justice, public education, workforce development, public health and human services, and child welfare.
The League is a collective of young women and their allies working to build and reinforce a culture where girls are fully empowered and where gender, race, and other disparities are identified and confronted in the systems that affect their futures
In Action: Girls Justice League organizers hold a #sayhername workshop. http://www.girlsjusticeleague.org/blog/2018/3/2/sayhername-the-fight-for-intersectional-feminism-workshop
Youth United for Change
- To develop the leadership of youth from communities of color who are capable of leading and governing all of society, using grassroots organizing as the training vehicle
- To build an organization powerful enough to help create community-based power focused on maintaining the right of Black and Brown people to control their own lives
- To have our young leaders and their communities organize to reshape society in a more just way, where everyone can realize their life’s full potential
In Action: https://www.youthunitedforchange.org/how_students_and_advocates_joined_forces_for_clean_water