Youth Momentum 2018
August 9-12, 2018
Young people 25 and under are among the most politically vulnerable in our society. Those in elementary, middle, and high school are legally required to attend schools every day, in buildings that are crumbling, with middling social services, punitive police presence, and often outdated curricula. At the college level, millions are attending campuses with astronomical tuition costs, low student wages, unaddressed violence against women, and daily discrimination against students of color. In today’s political context, both high school and college students face threats from Washington in the form of budget cuts, a weakening of the Office for Civil Rights, changes to national policy (e.g., ending DACA, rollbacks in access to healthcare, reduced protections for LGBTQ students), and more. These challenges only look likely to increase in the coming years, as income inequality, white supremacist ideology, threats to undocumented youth, the school-to-prison pipeline, and legal threats to unions persist and grow.
In spite of these challenges, we remain hopeful, because young people have again and again proven themselves as the primary drivers of liberatory social change. We know from experience that youth organizations across the country repeatedly demonstrate students’ ability to win significant policy concessions and be primary drivers of education reform. In times of crisis, youth have unleashed the power of spontaneous mass protest: behind Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street, Standing Rock and countless local uprisings is often a group of young people -- often younger than college-age -- rallying their friends to take to the streets and communicating through decentralized networks.
These moments have demonstrated our collective potential and raised national consciousness, but have not translated into long-term political power to win demands for young people. The groups that have been trying to build that political power for years often operate in structures that simply do not engage young people -- like traditional political parties and unions. Meanwhile, local youth organizing groups that have been working for years to advocate for changes in their cities have struggled to protect their victories. Now more than ever, we need to find a way for young people across the country to combine the energy of mass protest with the focus of structure-based organizing. Youth Momentum plans to build on this already robust youth organizing sector by equipping the nation’s leading youth organizers with new strategies, approaches, and tools to greet the coming challenges.
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