“The youth are powerful,” proclaimed Trevor Burroughs, founder of the East Palo Alto Historical and Agricultural Society. The youth are at the forefront of fighting for progressive change, from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in the 1960’s fighting for civil rights to Youth United for Community Action (YUCA) leading the fight for environmental justice.
On Monday, March 18th, the youth took the stage to articulate lessons from the past and inspire the ongoing movement for social and environmental justice in East Palo Alto. City Hall was so packed that many of the audience members were forced to stand, but this did not deter them from hearing what the youth had to say. The diverse and intergenerational audience was eager to view the premiere of three music video documentaries that resulted from collaboration between Stanford Urban Studies students and East Palo Alto youth lyricists. The films merged hip hop music and historical documentary techniques and explored three stories of environmental justice in East Palo Alto.
One of the songs “Living Body, ” by Darryl Davis, Brysone Washington, and Adrian Johnson, examined YUCA’s influential win of shutting down Romic Corporation’s hazardous waste plant in 2007. The power of the victory was that came from youth action. Darryl’s verse speaks to the real resolutions that come from a generation that is often overlooked in society:
“Protecting our land because we’re ohh soo defensive/ had kids as young as 10/ writing letters with incentives…YUCA got it/ Provide that safe space/ So young people can be empowered/ If you ain’t at the table/ You’re on the menu.”
Isaiah Phillips, an organizer of the event, MC, and one of the artists, stated, “The event brought the best of the community together, it brought together people who normally wouldn’t be in the same room.” We need to continue to work as a community and create spaces where there are intergenerational exchanges of knowledge and stories and where the youth are empowered and take the ownership to take action.
As we continue to face issues in our community, it is imperative that the youth voice is heard and recognized, for they are the next generation of leaders. Thank you for all who came out. It was truly a special event.