Monday, June 9, 2008

DC conference day two - report on youth action workshop

From outspoken youth to college student alliance activists, volunteer legal observers and poll watchers, letter writers and bloggers, young civil libertarians are getting organized. The very visible youth attendance at this conference shows that the future members of the ACLU are here, they are diverse and they were born well after 1980.

The workshop “Generation Activist: Young People Fight for Social Justice” featured Wisconsin’s own Angela Lang and Tom Fendt (pictured above) as featured panelists. Emilio De Torre screened a video about the ACLU of Wisconsin’s Other America Tour as an example of the ACLU of Wisconsin’s experiential education on injustice. Wisconsin student activist Tom Fendt said that his experience with the Other America Tour allowed him to learn more about how people experience discrimination but also gave him the confidence to make a difference.

A video clip of WISN-12 (below) included De Torre and University of Wisconsin Milwaukee ACLU Student Alliance activist Angela Lang was shown (below) and she described her involvement in direct civil liberties defense though legal observing in the community and on campus.

As an example of grassroots action, the Wisconsin activists also shared the YouTube video they produced to bring attention to the loitering ordinance that passed in Milwaukee.

Students organizing in the New York City schools showed the “School to Prison Pipeline” video they produced that uses student voices on their experiences with police in the school system. They described their film screenings, Q& A panels and calls to action complete with mock metal detectors and actors dressed as police to replicate their experiences for the audience.

Members of the Northern California ACLU’s Friedman Youth Project, talked about how the core of the project is a youth activist committee for high school youth. They educate themselves, share experiences with injustice and develop leadership skills (including summer civil rights “investigation” trips and activist retreats) to make change in their community. They said that their main advice for adult allies is to take youth seriously “because we are going to change the world and we need your support.”

In today's breakfast plenary address, ACLU national Executive Director Anthony Romero was asked a question by a Minnesota youth member about the ACLU’s work on civil rights for Native Americans (as in most recently in voting rights). He commented about her passion and said that he hoped that she stays with the ACLU because “we need you: in fact we’re counting on you.” We saw evidence of that commitment and passion today and throughout the conference.