Does anyone out there have any successful programs promoting political awareness in teens? I know of some GREAT books, but don’t know how to generate interest. When kids complain about not having enough computers in the library or not having a skate park in the neighborhood, I always urge them to write a letter or otherwise try to DO something about it. They give me blank looks.
I just finished reading Nathan McCall’s Makes Me Wanna Holler, and this passage (after teen years mis-spent on the streets as a thug and then in prison, Nathan has worked hard and gotten a great job as a newspaper reporter covering city hall) resonated:
Before, whenever I heard about decisions that affected the lives of blacks, I passively assumed they were irrevocable decisions made by faceless, powerful white folks who were out of reach. Now I got to see, firsthand, how the political process worked and how white citizens stormed City Hall when they wanted to get something done.
Blacks in Portsmouth seemed light-years away from understanding that process. They seldom organized and went to City Hall, mainly because they doubted it would make a difference. As a result, they were always reacting after the fact, always protesting after some historic black school had been closed or some right infringed upon– all because they hadn’t been at City Hall when the deals went down.
Substitute the word “blacks” with “teens” and the excerpt rings very true for the teens in my area. Baltimore is a city which needs to offer a lot more to its youth (even beyond safe streets, which it clearly lacks). It is also a small enough city that a united group of teens from one area of town could make a big difference. Is there a way to open their eyes to their latent power of change without actually giving them a cause (I certainly wouldn’t want to project my own agendas on to them)? Has anyone started an activism club, or a “improve our neighborhood” club? Please let me know!