On 5 August, 2018, a group of student delegates came together in San Francisco for the inaugural International Congress of Youth Voices. Founded by author Dave Eggers and the not-for-profit organizer Amanda Uhle, the congress brought together nearly 100 youth activists from around the world and noted guest speakers – including the US Representative John Lewis and the writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – for readings, mentorship, and collaborative learning.
At the end of the three-day congress, the delegates wrote a group manifesto, which, in the coming weeks, will be translated and published in several languages.
We are a network of empowered youth voices from around the globe that strive to take action for the world we wish to see. We recognize the issues that threaten human rights within our generation; let’s counteract them by implementing innovative solutions in the areas of health, education, social justice, security, and the environment. Our vision is to create a global system which encourages youth to take action for what they believe in – even when others might not. We intend to bring a bright light to the world’s most pressing issues and promote sustainable solutions. By the youth. For the youth.
We aspire to leave our national ego at the door and enter the gates of our global communities with an open mind. We must use an intersectional lens to self-reflect and be able to access connections and other views after acknowledging bias.
Intersectionality is the overarching framework for change. Intersectionality is understanding our communal and individual experiences as informed by our many identities.
In order to do this, we need to hold these values:
We cannot do necessary personal work if we need to prioritize our daily survival.
Recognizing the foundation of our experiences.
Solidarity and community.
No one is left behind. All of us are working towards collective freedom by reforming individualism and moving in togetherness. We will be able to do so by staying connected through a network regardless of our countries, while updating each other on our social work. We must accept responsibility to be one voice of change. We must acknowledge each other’s strengths, using them to cover each other’s weaknesses. In the words of the great Dr Martin Luther King Jr: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” and “no one is free unless we are all free.”
Empathy, self-love, artivism, and patience
Art is traveling without traveling. Art is a language that does not need western translation. Art is a mini-scale revolution. It is an extraordinary and compelling method for communicating one’s experiences, while keeping in mind that everyone’s narratives are multi-faceted.
If we are advocating for empathy, we must empathize with those we do not agree with but are willing to understand. To empathize is to uplift and inspire through the validation of our stories and experiences. As young artivists, we must recognize empathy as a medium that connects us to the world in order to enact positive social change.
It is imperative that we honor each other’s individual experiences and narratives without exploiting them. In order to incite the change we need in the world, we must understand that we as a collective will be met with hate and rejection, but we must remain patient, empathetic, and reflective.
Investment in education is an investment in the future and in order for our world to improve, it is imperative that education should be a right and not a privilege. It is important that we break the harsh restrictions, specifically for students of color, from attending schools outside of their districts and pursuing higher education. At the same time, we can make, expand, and promote programs within our schools and communities.
With disproportionate ratios of counselors to students, it is important to incorporate college access resource centers and programs within schools. We must appreciate and cherish our teachers by paying them better for affordable housing so that they can continue to educate and empower the youth.
We could go to our school boards to make small community changes and make bigger impacts, not only in our community, but globally.
Our lives are so often defined by our education – in order to create a more equal we need a more equal educational system.
We must hold curiosity and respect for cultural differences and remember that where you were born is not what defines you. It is who you choose to be. We must honor the credibility of the oppressed and we must reject the collective because opposition from the oppression is our obsession. We must hold ourselves and others accountable for our past and our future. We must redefine our imagination, to imagine taking back our lands, our wealth, and our humanness. And first and foremost we must stop making humans aliens to our unalienable rights.
Identity, ancestry and poetry
The intersectionality of identity and ancestry and how it affects and shows up in our arts and education:
“Until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” – Chinua Achebe
It is a privilege to know your ancestry. To know where your family comes from is to know where you come from. To not know where you come from is to not know who you are. Lost identity makes you vulnerable to systems of oppression. Lost identity manifests into internalized oppression that becomes present in our bodies and in our manners of expression. Oppressive narratives fill the void of self-representation. Stigmas swallow your self-image. We are being denied ourselves in the lack of representation in schools that only show the oppressors in their glory. To know your history is to be undeniable. We will not be denied anymore.
Commitment to action
We are committed to the mobilization of youth advocates and activists internationally through continuous community building, days of social action, and global initiatives. We believe that hope, resilience, and community must be the core of our mobilization. Our updates and progress shall be published in the multiple languages represented by our global delegation. This delegation stands together as a network of knowledge and resources – economically, emotionally, and spiritually. Our commitment to service and justice must be evident through action and progress and not solely through conversations read on paper. The borders imposed upon our nations will not limit our scope of our action. These issues are international and must be handled as such.
The international network of youth voices
We are the platform:
Meant to amplify the stories of the International Congress of Youth Voices, forthcoming delegates, and other youth worldwide.
We are the platform:
Meant to highlight the talents and skills that are exhibited by young people motivated by activism.
We are the platform:
Meant to build a community that will maintain and monitor our strides towards making real change.
We Are The Platform. Together.
Alex Palacios Santos
Angel E Palencia Ramos
Ashla Chavez Razzano
Elizabeth Schultz-Lorentzen Holstein
Jahid Wilson Jr
Jeronimo Perez Flores
Noa Gur Golan
Yennifer Coca Izquierdo