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On June 7, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and Youth Undoing Institutional Racism held a press conference at North Commons in Minneapolis.
The young are wise and the wise are young, yet we have not been heard from. So now, it is time to hear our truth. We are young people in the Twin Cities and we are also the future leaders of our communities. The proposed safety plans by city leaders like Mayor Frey do not include our voices. As the youth who are being most directly impacted by violence in our communities, we need to be at every decision-making table.
The problem is that in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic where our communities are being most affected and the increase of violence has been unprecedented, the proposed plans mainly center the increase of police funding instead of what they should be focusing on; which is increasing resources and passing youth-influenced policies.
The omission of our youth voice in these proposals, further isolate us from the decision-making tables.
We are asking community leaders, decision makers, teachers, educators, nonprofits leaders and lawmakers to:
- In terms of safety we are asking that we not rely on police intervention at the threat of violence. Both currently and historically, police presence has not equaled safety. We need to include creative approaches to safety that are personalized to each community. A generalized approach is not applicable to every situation.
- In terms of resources we are demanding a consistent flow of resources that are distributed equitably and are integrated into a young person's life before they are introduced into the criminal justice system.
- In terms of the language used surrounding violence affecting youth, we feel that the Language too narrowly focuses on the deficits in our communities and not enough on our strengths, creativity and ambitions. We are asking.... that we be seen fully and embraced for our inherent leadership abilities.
- In terms of policy surrounding violence affecting youth, we feel that the primary focus is on punishment and not enough on addressing the underlying systemic issues caused by the lack of resources in our communities. The violence currently unfairly impacts black youth. We are asking for intentional space to be created at the decision-making tables for ALL youth to influence policy decisions regarding violence and its impact on us.
- In terms of youth leadership we are asking decision makers to be consistent with their efforts at Re-investing in Leadership opportunities for youth. Opportunities such as Paid fellowship and internships at all levels of Non-Profit Orgs, For-Profit orgs and Government offices.
- Next, in regards to youth leadership we are also asking our peers to step into their leadership potential. This means stand up and stand out, even when your immediate environment tells you to sit down and fit in. We belong at the decision-making tables. Our voices are needed, if we want to see real, long-lasting change.
- In terms of trauma, we are demanding funding for youth-led, trauma informed AND healing-centered engagement. We have a voice and we can speak for ourselves. Our trauma is real. We are experiencing systemic trauma from policing, education, healthcare, racialized violence both historic and current, and a misuse of resources in our communities. As the youngest leaders in our society, we demand that we are invited to the decision-making table to influence how and where these resources will be distributed.
Speakers at the press conference included: Kanandi Mack (10), Andwele Mack (7), Malaki-Milton Jackson (19), Aazia-Marie Ross (25), Elijah Kamau (19), Tajelle Freeman (17), Lewiee Blaze (23), Umeran Hailu (17), Keenan Dickerson (21).
AFSC’s Healing Justice Program/Youth Undoing Institutional Racism works to disrupt the cradle-to-prison pipeline through anti-racist youth organizing, restorative practices, coalition building and thought leadership. We help to build the capacity of youth, educators and community members as they seek to have intentional conversations about race, racism and institutions and their lasting effects.