Youth Media Action Coalition

A Manifesto by Taylor Novick-Finder, Josue Pasillas, and Lucas Sandtroen

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” – Martin Luther King Jr.

Present Circumstance: Police injustices against youth of color occur daily in big cities, small cities, urban areas, and rural areas across America. Some incidents get national attention while others go unnoticed. Police abuse disproportionately affects this country’s youth of color. Instead of feeling served and protected by police officers, citizens must now keep a watchful eye on those who are supposed to keep them safe.

This issue of police injustice mainly affects the most marginalized youth: African-Americans, Latinos, and other minorities. They face verbal and physical abuse. They are harassed. They are arrested on false charges. They are murdered and left lying in their own blood. The abuses repeat nationwide too often.

Who We Are: A collection of concerned citizens, artists, bankers, teachers, worried about the futures of our children. Our society, namely institutions such as police, courts, and schools, set the status quo of how teenagers should and shouldn’t think, look and behave in the world. These institutions seek to take control of minority teens and construct them as criminals, and then punish them for their acts of defiance. This silences the youth and denies them the intellectual and social tools of literacy that would enable them to speak for themselves and express the things that are important to them.

Our system of globalized media encourages young people to be spectators and consumers rather than social actors. Our factory system of education demands that youth be passive and willing to accept a prescribed set of knowledge and skills.

Where is the party in opposition to our established system of racism? Where is the humanity, care and justice for the individuals who spend their lives rotting away in state and county penitentiaries?

Several responses are absolutely critical to bring justice to our society. No longer can we allow our police forces to be discriminatory and racist towards minority groups.

We find it imperative that there be a radical change to our schooling system, and instead implement a system more closely tied to the John Dewey model. Schools should be about developing critical-thinkers who are capable of solving social issues and representing themselves.

What is needed to help empower disenfranchised youth of color is the implementation of a critical literacy. A critical literacy empowers low-income, urban teenagers to produce their own media that publicly voices their ideas and concerns about the most important issues in their lives. Producing their own video work is a very effective way to empower disenfranchised youth, and self-representation through media will be critical to uniting youth of various backgrounds and identities.

“Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today” – Malcolm X

Mission Statement: We can no longer afford to have police, courts, and schools seemingly rooting against the success and achievement of our children. It is our responsibility to provide youth groups with the resources to develop skills in critical literacy, as well as, technical and theoretical media training to create empowered, highly motivated, free thinkers inspired to tackle challenges affecting their communities.

Youth Media Action Coalition: Today’s youth has so much unrealized creative potential, resultant of an archaic “teach to the test” mentality, which affords little to no room for personal expression. We are advocating for the construction of a Youth Media Action Coalition (YMAC), privately funded, comprehensive after-school educational programming seeking to provide a creative outlet for muted voices in our school system. We will seek to empower at risk youth, instilling them with the confidence and technical know-how to express themselves effectively in this new media age. Although primarily hands-on and production based in nature, YMAC will provide the requisite theoretical framework to inform the imaginations of our participants.

We envision the program becoming a staple at high schools across the nation. Using the student’s media as an entry point of conversation, we hope to foster relationships between students of varying cultural landscapes, celebrating their unique identities, as well as, developing an understanding of their differences.

Instructors will encourage students to turn the lens on themselves (personal narrative) as well as their communities (participatory journalism and documentary), grappling with issues such as, sexuality, race, gender, drug addiction, gang violence, incarceration, and police relations. Crucial to efficacy of the program is emphasizing the strength and capacity of our student’s voices to them. In 2014, they have the power to be heard! A strong understanding of effective uses of social media provides kids an avenue for expression with a global reach. It is imperative that they understand this.

Far too often, students feel as though they are voiceless and their circumstance hopeless. Core to the Youth Media Action Coalition curriculum is video advocacy. We want to stress that visual media can be used as a tool to call attention to perceived injustice or abuse, and if crafted correctly, can bring about collective action and societal change.

Conclusions: As one can see in the media, the streets become battlegrounds between the police forces and youth of color who are disproportionately victimized. The news that the general public obtains from mass media usually does not have a prolonged call to action or represent the views of the people. It is dependent on who provides the information, usually the police department that committed the injustice. Today, within seconds, youth have the opportunity to be empowered through the use of new media by sharing images and videos that can be shared around the globe and that can create social change.

Ending police injustices, police brutality, and the criminalization of youth of color by militarized police forces in our communities is critical. Young people should be empowered in their schools by being taught to build power and share their stories through the use of new media.

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