History moves slow until it moves fast. It sure has moved fast since our last update was posted on Feb 13, 2018–the day before the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, FL and about 72 hours before survivors got to work instigating the #NeverAgain campaign that has unleashed incredible youth activist energy across the country. YVote has known the time is ripe for a youth social movement, and we’re SO inspired by what has been unfolding.
- We’re impressed by the multiple tactics youth leaders have been using, from testifying in state legislatures to CNN Town Halls to boycotts of companies supported by the NRA (or companies that support hate mongers like Laura Ingraham) to national Marches and movement building and more.
- We’re impressed by their intersectionality, reaching out to teens of color from low-income communities for whom gun violence is a daily reality and calling out the media for not including THESE voices as much as the voices of affluent, largely white youth like themselves.
- We’re impressed by their commitment to ensure that this isn’t just a flash in the pan but demonstration that the youth of today will not accept adults have settled for.
- And we’re particularly impressed by the connections many teens on the frontlines are making to voting. “First we march, then we vote” was one of the leading slogans at the March for Our Lives. The importance of voting was underscored by a number of groups doing voter registration AND within a number of speeches. Two examples, among many: Parkland survivor David Hogg’s ‘No more’ speech urging students to “get out and vote ’em out” and Naomi Wadler reminding us she and her 11 peers can vote in just “7 short years.” She can and she will!
Important and energizing as Walkouts and Marches are, dramatically increasing youth turnout at the midterm elections on Nov 6 is vital to making political change. YVote is all about solutions at and beyond the ballot box–and drawing connections between the two. As such, many YVote youth led Walkouts at their respective schools on March 14 (one of ours, Nuzat Wahid, was featured on Brian Lehrer’s #WalkOut and Call In about this); YVote conducted voter registration at the amazing Brooklyn Walkout at Borough Hall, attended by 1000 young people (photos here), and President of John Jay College for Criminal Justice Fatime Uruci delivered powerful remarks on behalf of YVote (and got the crowd chanting, “When they say ‘Why vote?,’ we say ‘I vote”); and many YVoters participated in the March 24 marches in NYC or DC.
The locus of our focus is on channeling the energy of protests into sustained political engagement. We spent a bunch of time at our March Pizza and Politics Forums debriefing the Marches and brainstorming “what next?” We came up with a number of ideas we’re excited about, summarized here, and we’re excited to operationalize them in the months to come. The time is now!
Some additional highlights of the month:
- YVote youth being featured in a number of WNYC radio stories during a week of in-depth reportage the station did on youth activism, notably YVoter Nuzhat Wahid, a senior at the Academy of American Studies, in This Is How NYC Students Plan a Walkout and YVoters Aicha Cherif, a junior at School of the Future, and Saskia Van Horn, a Senior at Energy Tech HS, being interviewed in “Students Who March for Gun Control Plan to Vote for It, Too” As per Saskia, “If we just show up to march and we walk out of school once or twice, and then nobody goes to vote, and the same representatives have the same stances on gun control legislation and it remains stagnated, like, then it doesn’t matter, right?” Right.
- YVoter Divine Ndombo being tapped to deliver a powerful keynote on behalf of YVote at an Funder’s Breakfast for the 22×20 Campaign on March 20 at Columbia University’s Brown Institute for Media Innovation. “I joined YVote last summer because I have a passion for social justice, and I knew that the importance of voting was not only in making sure your voice was being heard but standing up for those whose voices have been silenced.” Beyond statistics, she reminded the audience to make it personal & connect voting to the things young people care about. You can check out Divine’s whole speech here.
- The launch of this 3:30 minute stellar video capturing the State of the YOUnion Teen Action Parties from February, prominently featuring a number of YVoters.
So much lies ahead. Let April showers bring November voters!
We’re not even halfway through the month yet but already it’s been a great one. Why? Our February 7 State of the YOUnion Teen Action Party at Sony Square NYC is a big part of it! The Party, hosted in collaboration with our incredible partners Do Something and The LAMP, as part of our shared work in the 22×20 campaign, was phenomenal. Youth from YVote and programs throughout the city gathered to reflect critically and to develop powerful and provocative politically and civically-fueled GIFs, memes, and video testimonials. Check out photos here. Samples of the youth-created media will be available soon.
What else is cooking this month? So glad you asked!
- On Feb 10, the incredible Yara Shahidi turned 18—and celebrated by registering to vote and hosting a voting party. She is a powerful ambassador for youth voting (check her out talking about voting with Trevor Noah, telling Colbert why she’s so excited to be turning 18 in a midterm year, and telling Oprah about her desire to harness activism into “quantified action” through voting. She is a formidable asset in YVote’s 18 in ’18 effort to make registering to vote a rite of passage akin to learning to drive, and we’re cooking up a number of ideas to further leverage her platform.
- YVote completed our Fall Action Plan—and is launching the next phase of work later this month. Youth will take even a stronger leadership role in our spring Pizza and Politics Forums–starting Feb 28 and March 1– co-designing and facilitating monthly workshops (list of topics here) and digging in to their Civic Action Majors (menu of Majors here) We can’t wait!
- Mayor De Blasio made civic engagement a centerpiece of his State of the City speech–and his second term. He rolled out a 10-point Democracy NYC plan to strengthen democracy by improving the way the city carries out elections and encouraging more voting and citizen participation. He is hiring a Chief Democracy Officer (in truth, we ALL need to be Chief Democracy Officers in our families and communities…), and committing to amplifying the city’s voter registration efforts, retraining front-line staff at city agencies on voting rights, revamping the distribution, collection and submission of voter registration forms, and ramping up civic education in schools.
- YVote is excited to support and strengthen this commitment, which establishes a great platform for work like ours. Unfortunately, youth voter registration by itself hasn’t been very effective historically–developing motivation and meaning by coupling it with work that investigates “why vote” and links to issues teens care about–racial justice, affordable housing, mass incarceration, immigration– is vital, and is where YVote can help. Further, peer-to-peer work is SO powerful in this vein; we hope this initiative will engage teens as voting ambassadors, as they are best situated to help motivate and mobilize their classmates and community members. We are consistently inspired and impressed by how reflective and convincing YVoters are.
- YVote is partnering with Do Something, Turbovote, and with the force of nature Candice Cook Simmons on a #BlackWave2018 voter registration drive in conjunction with a little film being released February 16 called Black Panther. The goal is to provide viewers/constituents with a sense of agency and excitement BEYOND the film by channeling their pre- and post-movie energy into constructive (or as Yara would say, “quantifiable”) action by registering to vote.
- Interested in helping out? When you go to see the film–or when you have time to go by a movie theater showing the film–approach people going in or coming out and encourage them to text the word “BE HEARD” to the phone number 38383 and use these specific hashtags when talking about the film #BlackWave2018 #WeAreOurOwnSuperheroes #VoterRegistration. This will provide them with information about registering to vote, updating their registration, and dates and deadlines for local, state, and national elections.
Though February is a short month, it sure is a mighty one!
They say January sets the tone for the rest of the year–and YVoters are making sure it’s a bold and bright one!
On January 10 and 11, we hosted our first YVote Pizza and Politics Forums of the year– and the finale of the Fall Action Plan series (yes, it seems Crunchy Flamin’ Hot Cheetos are the go-to pizza topping for 2018)
YVoters reflected upon and wove together skills and knowledge gleaned throughout the prior three Forums in order to agree upon a really ambitious but achievable goal: increasing youth voter engagement nationally and recruiting at least one million 18 year olds to vote for the first time in the Midterm Elections in November. YVote youth are galvanized by the goal, and have started working on strategies for achieving it.
Moving into the second half of the school year, youth will take more ownership and leadership of sessions, co-designing and co-facilitating monthly workshops and signing up for Civic Action “Majors.” Stay tuned for further news about the big ideas we’re cooking up!
On January 20, YVoters had an empowering experience at the NYC Women’s March. While it was more of a Women’s Stand since we moved all of three blocks in three hours, we decided that was appropriate as we need to stand for women. For many of our participating youth, this was their first March/Protest experience–but it won’t be their last. Here are a few pictures from the special day, and more can be enjoyed here.
YVote is honored to have signed on as the first youth partner for MarchOn, which is doing instrumental work picking up where the Marches left off, employing a sophisticated political strategy to coordinate concrete actions at the federal, state, and local level with a focus on marching to the polls. Here’s to it!
On January 23, a YVote youth delegation traveled to Newark to do a training on youth voting for youth activists from the Abbott Leadership Youth Media Summit (YMS.)
YMS teens are preparing to launch a Youth Voice Tour in high schools throughout Newark as part of the schools returning to local control from decades in state receivership on Feb 1. YMS will be including a component on youth voting thanks to the interaction!
YVote youth facilitated a series of role plays between nonvoters and voters and gave the Newark teens–who are new to this– good feedback and pointers about how to make the case about voting with a variety of young people. YVote plans to do youth voter engagement outreach with a number of youth organizations over coming months. If you are interested in having YVote facilitate something for youth you work with or organizations you know, contact Sanda@yvoteny.org
The BIG push this month is our State of the YOUnion initiative, asking teens respond to the prompts: “What would you say if you were asked to speak about the State of the Union in our country or in your community?” or “What do YOU feel you can do to strengthen the State of the Union in our country or in your community?” Check out youth addresses by Divine (who not only shares her thoughts about undocumented students but describes the goals of YVote and the State of the YOUnion campaign), Katrice, and Andy, Brianna, and Yessii
We’ll wrap up this campaign on the evening of February 7 with a State of the YOUnion Teen Action Party, in collaboration with The LAMP and Do Something, hosted by Sony Square NYC. At the party, top State of the YOUnion testimonials will be professionally recorded and youth will have opportunity to “remix” the president’s SOTU, create gifs and memes about their aspirations for the country, and interact with testimonials from youth around the country. We’d love to have you join us if you’re available–and we’re happy to extend invitations to any teen activists you think would be interested–we really want it to be an opportunity for youth from different groups to cross pollinate.