Youth Activism Is Alive and Well – If Given the Chance

May 16th, 2019

Our Jamaican youth often get a “bad rap.” Many Jamaicans believe they are lazy and self-centered. Millennials, in particular (slightly older) are seen as shallow and obsessed with material things. Jamaican adults often put young people down; between the ages of twelve and twenty-five, say, they are not entitled to express an opinion or have a seat at the “grown-ups” table. They are set apart in their own “youth forums” – and never the twain shall meet. We need to stop this practice.

Our young people should be integrally involved in every aspect of our discussions, our democracy, our dialogue. We are very fond of panel discussions on a wide range of topics. I would like to see a young person (by that I mean between the ages of say, fifteen and thirty years) on each and every one of them. They can speak, don’t they? They have ideas and opinions, right?

And we should listen to them! We are all listening to the compelling voice of Greta Thunberg, aren’t we?

Here are just a few examples, literally off the top of my head, of young Jamaicans who are worth listening to; and they are really good mentors, too. There are of course many others out there. Some of them claim that they are getting older now, but they still look ridiculously young to me. I raise my glass to them! (I have included some links to articles about or including them).

Jhanell Tomlinson cares deeply about climate change, and about communicating it to her peers and young people in general. She is a representative of the Caribbean Youth Environment Network (CYEN). She actually met Greta Thunberg at a climate change conference. I wish I could find the photo.

Neville Charlton is equally passionate about youth volunteerism…and peace. As the founder and chairman of Youth Inspiring Positive Change, this young man of irresistible optimism and drive is focused on youth empowerment and representation, working with marginalized communities…and peace. He seems equally at home in Tivoli Gardens and at the University of the West Indies, where he has been working closely with the Violence Prevention Alliance.

Alecia “Nazneen” Jones is one of the warmest people I know, and equally hard-working. She is Project Director at the Voices for Jamaica Today Foundation, a diaspora group that works in the inner-city community of Maverley in Kingston – not easy work, by the way. She is an entrepreneurial spirit, a feminist and a very caring young woman.

Ayanna Dixon is like a will o’ the wisp – artistic, creative and a bright spark, with a touch of nerdiness. She is a fashion designer and impossibly slim with a big smile. She is one of 20 Caribbean fashion designers currently in Trinidad, at the Fashion and Contemporary Design Accelerator.

Candice Stewart is a steady, focused young woman. She is/was very involved in the Royal Optimist Club of Kingston (ROCK) and believes in children and family, and solid values. Now she is making her way in the world – and at the Jamaica Information Service.

Adrian O. Watson is a biogeographer from the inner city, with a background in natural resources management and NGO management. He’s a former national coordinator at CYEN, a beekeeper and social entrepreneur. He is funny, busy, engaged and always the first person to stand up and ask a question at any forum (or, as he would say it, “stir up trouble”).

Abde Lee is a very serious young man. He is rather political, and that is good and interesting. I can guarantee you a good long chat on almost every topic under the sun with Abde, in a café somewhere.

Makeda Bawn is a truly gifted and creative young woman. She is studying communications, has a light touch, loves young children and can do anything she turns her hand to, given half the chance – acting, photography, you name it.

Ayesha Constable is chirpy, confident and not your traditional “public servant,” although her current role as National Coordinator of the Climate Change Focal Point Network sounds rather long-winded and pompous. Ayesha is far from it. She’s a good writer too.

So let’s encourage our young people. Adults may not always understand the way they go about doing things, but times are oh, so different from when they were growing up. It’s an uncertain world, complicated and at times, dangerous. Young people are bravely venturing out and trying to find their way. Far too many of them don’t have role models or mentors to guide them.

Let us help them along the path of life, wherever we can.

P.S. I have not included any photos in this post. I would probably choose the wrong ones anyway.

 

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4 Responses to “Youth Activism Is Alive and Well – If Given the Chance”

  1. Emma this is a beautiful. The voice of our youth is more powerful beyond all measure. If we can create opportunities for youth development we are on the path to a crime free and more sustainable Jamaica.

  2. EmmaLewis says:

    Of course the voice of youth is powerful! I quite agree with you, Neville.

  3. […] a recent article on the Gleaner blogs page, I wrote about the need to listen to, and include our young people. We […]

  4. […] people – including Jamaican children, who are so often told to shut up and sit down – make wonderful advocates. They get down to the basics, quickly and simply. Take it or leave it, they tell it like it […]

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