This article identifies the benefits, wins, highs and successes of youth organizing. All this good stuff sparks ‘ooohhhh’, ‘aaaahhh’ or ‘tell me more’, and becomes salivating and enlightening material for non-organisers or organiser rookies. However this part of the article did not catch my attention or interest me. These benefits, wins, highs and successes of youth organizing have had consistent airplay time and are more spoken of than their so-called ugly stepsister, ‘challenges’. This presents a major dilemma: because the challenges of youth organizing are not spoken of, recognized or addressed these community efforts may be doing little good and more harm.
I am a co-lead organizer for Brown Touchdown, a sub-campaign within Handle the Jandal, a Polynesian youth-led campaign in Auckland, New Zealand enabling youth leadership to take action on issues of importance to them, such as enhancing youth mental health and well-being. Brown Touchdown organises Polynesian youth preparing for and participating in health-related tertiary education within the Auckland region. We are a student-centred, student-led collective that is a vehicle for OUR VOICE, to raise issues and implement solutions to support Polynesians to prepare for and excel in tertiary education and play leading roles in the transformation of the health workforce and health system to address Polynesian health inequities.
We need to beware, because youth organising campaigns such as Brown Touchdown, which live by the motto ‘for the people, by the people’, can become a tool of current social structures to safeguard and further the traditional interests of the majority. This aligns with what is said in the article: that youth organising could result in challenges of institutional conflict or systemic discrimination. This can create and maintain social division between the powerful and powerless. Brown Touchdown and youth organizing alike are unsustainable and ineffective if there is no engagement or shake-up action of traditional structures to create a supportive infrastructure of power that validates, appreciates and implements youth voices and aspirations.
My ask is for no more repetitious praise of ‘youth organising’ as a glorious problem-solver tool. Instead, there needs to be more discussion and action from social structures in the pursuit of strengthening and building ‘youth organising’. Society must strive to listen, nurture, protect and attend to our youth, who are not the leaders of tomorrow, but the leaders of today. ‘Tomorrow’ has come and is already happening!