August 15, 2017 - Teen Empowerment performs a play about racism and oppression.

After Charlottesville, Teens Tackle Racism

Earlier this month, the I Have a Future movement – which includes teens from the Dorchester Bay Youth Force – hosted an event with the Center for Teen Empowerment that tackled racism in 2017. Teen Empowerment performed a play that talked about the 4 I’s of Oppression and how racism is ideological, institutional, interpersonal and internalized by focusing on a black family in Roxbury who are responding to the events of Charlottesville, Va. The play takes place in the family living room as they are listening to the radio and all the major news headlines. The grandparents recount their experiences with school walk outs and youth involvement in the Civil rights movement encouraging one of their grandchildren who is upset by what she sees in her community – people being pushed out because of gentrification, failures of the BPS school system that don’t teach the history of black and brown people, violence in the community and a sense of apathy from her brother and mother. While a granddaughter wants to take action, her mother is encouraging her to keep focused on her school work and her brother seems too interested in his friends and football. This family conversation and the many sides represented shine a light on conversations that are happening in black homes across the country. Through song, dance, and humor, the play connects the youth in the civil rights movement to the youth in movements like Black Lives Matter today. Highlighting the importance of the youth voice in taking social action. Following the play, teen leaders from the I Have a Future movement lead table conversations with attendees and gave speeches in front of an audience that included Boston Police Superintendent-in-Chief William Gross, Massachusetts Senator Brownsberger, Dr. Atyia Martin, the Chief Resilience Officer for the City of Boston, and pioneering journalist Sarah Ann Shaw. Sarah Ann Lawton, a Youth Force organizer, gave a speech about the importance of expungement, calling on elected officials, namely the Judiciary Committee to consider this bill. She highlighted the ways in which expungement would change the lives of many, in particular, communities of color that were severely impacted. In fact, she said targeting by 3 strike laws and increased policing of drugs and petty crimes as part of the ‘tough on crime’ movement of the 90’s. She spoke about specific policing policies here in Boston and urged that expungement be seen as a way to benefit a community that was unfairly targeted. This display in youth leadership prompted Senator Brownsberger to clear his schedule and invite the I Have a Future team to meet with him that week. We are so proud of the work of all the young leaders and organizers who made such a wonderful event come together!

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