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Youth Politics Stand Out at Facing Race Conference

YO! Youth Outlook Multimedia, Video and News Report, Jazmyne Young Posted: Dec 04, 2008

Editor's Note: How did race really affect the presidential election? YO! content producer Jazmyne Young, 20, attended the Facing Race conference to figure it out.

On the eve of my evolution out of teen-dom, I attended the Facing Race conference sponsored by the Applied Research Center in Oakland. According to the website, the conference aimed to help create a anti-racist community a more equitable, just and open society in which everyone feels safe, valued and respected.

Perhaps it was lingering immaturity that made me find text messaging more interesting than the deep theories of racial equality amongst the experts. It all reminded me of the voice chanting, I think very deeply in KRS-Ones song My Philosophy.

YO! attended a Youth and Politics workshop at the Facing Race Conference

The conference opened with a post-election analysis of how the presidential election was affected by race. The most obvious topic of discussion at this plenary, was Barack Obama, our nations first non-white president. Here was where I felt like they took a topic that the common layperson could understand and talk about, but just for the sake of being a panelist and being an expert on the matter, they put a bunch of stats and random details in the mix and diluted what could have been a very healthy conversation.

Of course, the panelist I found most interesting was Jeff Chang, an acclaimed hip-hop writer and journalist for Vibe magazine, who interviewed Obama early in his campaign. Maybe its because Chang put his ideas into a context that I could understand.

Once the first plenary ended, conference attendees were free to disperse into smaller groups and choose from a list of different workshops, like Green Economies and Reproductive Justice. The workshop that I sat in on was focused on how to build young leaders. The focus was engaging young people in discussions on how they helped organize around different platforms during the campaign. Here, mostly college students from across the country shared stories of how they not only volunteered their time, but encouraged other students and friends to organize and rally against or in support of issues on the ballot.

I found the young leader workshop more stimulating than the political babble from the previous panel. Hot topics included: Prop 8, changing light bulbs in inner cities to reduce energy consumption, and encouraging young people to begin studying and training to become the future board and possibly cabinet members of tomorrow. One woman I spoke with was Tsedey Betru from the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy, a New York City-based Think Tank who runs an annual summer program training college students to become public officials. Her first graduating class includes a distinguished list of council and board members all the way up to the Senate.

The consensus among the experienced workshop facilitators was that one of the biggest mistakes young people can make is believe that now that Obama has been elected into office the fight is over. There was a reoccurring idea that for every Obama in office, there needs to be an entire team of people of similar mind and interest in public office.

What I initially thought was a workshop encouraging young people to volunteer and pass out leaflets was actually a very informational meeting encouraging us to take this newfound wave of politicism amongst youth and channel it into a possible career. Ill admit that I had never considered going into politics before this workshop.still consideringnope, dont look for me on Capitol Hill anytime soon.

I must say that I didnt personally walk away from the conference with too many new seeds planted in the garden of my mind, but like they say, different strokes for different folks. My interest got lost somewhere in the statistics and jargon. However, those folks interested in becoming politicians or sharing theories about race relations with distinguished colleagues over complimentary cups of coffee probably had the time of their predominately middle-aged lives.

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