'Virtual Town Hall: Calling Youth to Action'

There was a bridging of generations among activists this afternoon for Tajah Foster-Walker, Kiara Crawford and Sydeny Alexander’s “Virtual Town Hall: Calling Youth to Action.”

Elders and young people engaged in the current movement exchanged ideas and advice via Zoom.

 “I think one of the main messages for me at least personally was to continue to fight and continue to have conversations, to show up in spaces where people can feel comfortable leaning into discomfort because the outcome will be more gratifying than the initial conversation,” Alexander said.

Cori Bush, Tango Walker, Farrakhan Shegog and Bruce Franks Jr. participated in an adult panel – which was followed by a student panel to share their perspective on social change.

The 35 young adults and teenage attendees who tuned in were given the opportunity to ask the panel an array of questions from a Google document they completed in advance of the panel discussion.

Most of the questions A majority of the questions asked addressed how the youth can practice social activism and push for effective legislative change.

“The major purpose of the webinar was to make everyone’s voices heard,” Alexander said. “I feel like everyone did an amazing job coming up with thought provoking questions – I think one of the biggest things is seeing the fruit of your labor and how it turned out really well.”

Amy Hunter, a veteran activist and expert on diversity and inclusion. moderated the panel discussion – and was effective in making sure everyone’s voice was heard on the call.

. She allowed each generation to answer the questions regardless of which demographic they were directed toward. Everyone’s voice was heard on the call.

Hunter asked the older group a question from the prerequisite Google document.

 “I believe that defunding the police is the best way forward, other than protesting and contacting our government officials,” Hunter said. “What else can be done to speed up the defunding of the police and safety of African Americans?”

Franks responded.

“Government is ineffective – this is coming from somebody who has served in government,” Franks said. “When you think about the root causes of the crime is that goes on in our communities, when we attack that on the front end – like the grassroot organizations that are helping provide jobs, that are helping provide resources in the community – it’s good to uplift those different organizations.”

Shegog agreed, further explaining his views on how the city’s budget can be restructured to create systemic change.

“Defund the police means reallocation of dollars,” Shegog said. “If re-appropriated to areas where it’s really needed – like education, mental health, housing and other things – there will be no need for law enforcement to have more than 50 percent of a local budget.”

Hunter asked the younger generation what they needed from the older generation in order to succeed. The older generation quickly pointed out that both demographics needed and can learn from each other. Franks shared how his son taught him how to use social media.

Bush chimed in, pointing out how essential social media was during Ferguson.  

“During Ferguson, one thing we did not know was that we needed to keep our narrative,” Bush said. “Social media helps you keep your narrative.”

Both Franks’ and Shegog’s children made appearances in the background of their separate screens. They boys were not pushed out immediately – which is commonly seen during interviews, newscasts and Zoom calls as working from home became the new normal due to the COVID-19 global pandemic.  as common practice from newscasters and zoom call etiquette. They allowed their sons to sit and listen to the book suggestions Bush and Tango made and hear the knowledge that was being shared.

Among the suggested reading list was "White Rage" by Carol Anderson, "Democracy in Black" by Eddie Glaude, "Mapping Decline" by Colin Gordon, "Under the Affluence" by Tim Wise, "White Fragility" by Robin DiAngelo, "The New Jim Crow" by Michelle Alexander, "Post Traumatic Slave Disorder" by Joy DeGruy, "Medical Apartheid" by Michelle Williams and "Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?" by Beverly Daniel Tatum.

 “Y’all young people are amazing,” said Franks. “My main goal is to do things differently than those older people before me.”

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