Young people leading change
Updated: Sep 24, 2020
By 4FRONT Youth Activism Coordinators:
What does it mean to be a young person leading change?
You've got to be responsible. What I'm doing can be seen as inspirational. Leaders have to be able to inspire change and that is what I need to do. I have more responsibility on my shoulders and I need to carry that weight. As a young person leading change, you want to make sure that you don't make certain mistakes, because if people are looking up to you and you make those mistakes, they might follow in your footsteps, so you need to be responsible. You also need to be powerful, you need to have heart. Before being a Youth Activism Coordinator, I didn't know my rights, but now I do and that is power, because now I have the words to speak my mind. It changes how a police officer interacts with me because they think ‘this guy knows what he's speaking about’, and I can hold them to account. It also makes you feel good because you know your rights and what you are entitled to.
I feel special because there are a lot of people in my shoes that don't have the same opportunities that I have. It proves that no matter what your age is there is always a space for change. No matter where you are there is always a place for change. I find it interesting how I’m younger than many of my friends but by being a Youth Activism Coordinator I am helping them through the obstacles they face. It is empowering. As a young person I could be a leader through my experiences, and I can use them to create change in this world.
It is about envisioning a future that is suitable for our generation - one that is fair, and thinking about ways to make that happen, and then pushing to implement those ways. You have to be someone who is open to exploring other people's opinions and being able to articulate your opinions, why you believe in them, and why you may not agree with someone else's opinion. It is about being confident in your beliefs and passionately advocating for your vision of change to be implemented. It is also about checking yourself and reviewing why you do the things that you do, how they are beneficial to your goal, and being able to empower other young people by sharing knowledge. Then creating spaces for intellectual conversations to share learned knowledge and uplifting other people your age to want to do the same work you are doing and better.
From the aspect of creating change as a young person, it is about knowing that the work we are doing is recognised and is also about inspiring other young people to try to make change. It is leading by example. We have a responsibility to lead as Youth Activism Coordinators. The longer I have been a YAC, the more confident I have become in being able to express myself and my perspective on how to hold systems to account and also building my perspective on policy change. We all have dedicated parts of our lives to the movement during this work, it is not a one off thing, it is a movement that must continue and must grow. Protesting is only one of the first steps, a big part of it is educating people. People think that because we are young we don't have the knowledge. We are the people who are going through it, therefore we are the right people to talk about our problems and be at the forefront of a movement for change. It is not about recognition but more to do with hunger to change society so our kids can live in a different world.
As a young person leading change, I feel powerful and important - knowing I’m at the frontline of the battle for change. Our generation will eventually be the generation running the country, so we need to dismantle the broken system from now and begin to rebuild it in a way that caters for everyone and provides equity for all parties. To be leading change means that I have to have no fear and set an example to inspire and encourage others through my behaviour. This also means that I have to be a lot more mindful with my actions and how I present myself because I don’t want to jeopardise all the work we’ve been doing. I enjoy the challenge because I know that it’s only a matter of time until the change we want comes and being someone who will be instrumental in that spurs me on.
It’s empowering and exciting to be a young person leading change as we are pioneering a movement that centres our voices, our experiences and our vision for change. Young people from our communities have been silenced for too long, so to lead change means to take up spaces, to get our voices heard and speak up even when it's uncomfortable to do so. It also means to create space for personal healing whilst working towards collective change everyday. It’s a great and difficult responsibility but we stand together in supporting one another, speaking truth to power and building peace in our communities!
What change do you want to see and why?
I want the community to be better, to be stronger and to be unified. We met Stafford Scott and he was telling us about the community he grew up in and helped build. We need to do things ourselves and we are slowly doing that. They were able to demand that they get the contacts, like to paint their own estate and do the other jobs required rather than others doing it. We can fix our own communities, we just need the opportunities. You never know we could start painting our estate for money and have legitimate income and be able to build things... We need to not just survive but to live. I want to see Jahiem’s Justice Centre open and I can't wait to see how everyone uses it. I want my brother's legacy to live on.
I want to see our protests having an impact and bringing people to the movement. I want to see an end to police brutality and for more young people to know their rights and to try to stand up to the system. So many people are falsely detained and searched for reasons that are not legal according to the police handbook [PACE]. The police have too much power and that makes young people afraid, especially when they don't know their rights.
I want to see different types of government officials - officials who genuinely care for us and have pure intentions in making the world a better place and who are not doing things for their own selfish personal gain. People who want to look after their fellow human beings. I want to see more support for young people, more opportunities for young people, more understanding of young people, more investment in our lives. Investments aren't always about money, but more about time, energy and love.
When the police do have the powers to search us, the majority of the people in my area who get stopped are black young people. My mum always told me that the rules and laws in this country don't work for black people, they only work for white people. We need to work to change the law so it is fairer and more inclusive to everyone else.
The change I would like to see is less uses of power against the black community and a significant increase in the support for my community at first. This change needs to happen anywhere that people or organisations have power. This will eventually even out the playing field and provide equity across the board. Then strategies need to be implemented to keep the equity and allow everyone to be given a chance. I also believe society should be a lot less punitive and a lot more supporting. A lot more help and support is required in the places where people are often punished.
I want to see completely new systems and structures that seek to support and meet the needs of all - especially Black and other marginalised communities. My vision involves young people that are most impacted by justice issues taking back the power and shaping the new systems, policies and practices that we want to see and build. Building these new systems means challenging and eradicating the current systems that create and perpetuate violence, racism, capitalism and other oppressive structures. I envision a world and society that is founded on peace and justice that allows all to heal, thrive and be free.