Students in Los Angeles lead a campaign to redirect $153 million away from paying for swimmingpool filters at wealthy schools toward improving school facilities in South Central L.A. Youth in Harlem draw street corner crowds with guerilla theater about local environmental injustices, while young men in Seattle attend a weekend retreat to deconstruct gender roles and homophobia.
From coast to coast, a new wave of youth organizing is taking form, built on a historical foundation of youth activism, and shaped by the current cultural and political landscape. As in other countries, young people in the United States have played major roles in social justice movements. They have fought on the front lines of the civil rights movement, opposed the war in Vietnam, and struggled for equal rights and fair treatment as part of the women’s and queer liberation movements, and the Black and Latino Power movements. However, in the last decade, young people have increasingly been mobilizing around their identity as “youth,” crossing traditional race lines and issue boundaries in the process. Buoyed by a new crop of intermediaries and a handful of progressive foundations, the recent proliferation of youth-led and youth-focused organizations has even led to talk in organizing circles of a bona fide “youth movement.”
This 128-page report is structured in seven chapters. The first four offer case studies that illustrate the culture and frustrations, successes and pitfalls of on-the-ground youth organizing today. The final three chapters provide a larger context for the work and offer some lessons and recommendations.
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