Putting the youth in ” Youth Action Day”
As we continue to observe major social and political issues take front center, we will need more young people to play a role in changing the world that we see and know. Mahatma Gandhi once said, ” It’s the action, not the fruit of action, that’s important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there’ll be any fruit. But that doesn’t mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result.” This quote attests to the continuous hard work our fellows do when they show up and show out. We recognize that during past times such as the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement that young people played significant roles in protesting and marching about inequality, justice, racism, LGBTQ rights, and more. It was young people then that were the catalyst for change and it is young people now that are continuing the work and proudly carrying the torch.
Recognizing that young people play a major role in social change, we’ve developed our ” Youth Days of Action.” Youth Days of Action is a space where our fellows can learn, express, and develop ways to combat different social issues. We’ve all heard the saying ” Young people are the leaders of the future or the next generation of leaders.” We are taking that saying a step further by training and allowing fellows to do just that. Youth Days of Action consist of three-track sectors: Education, Justice, Health, and the intersection of them in our world. The Gem Project has been fortunate to continue working with amazing community organizations that pour into our fellows. Organizations such as City of Newark, Newark Summer Youth Employment Fund, Victoria Foundation, Community Foundation of New Jersey, Planned Parenthood, United Ways of Greater Newark, and Newark Thrives Grant. The youth are more than young people with our Youth Days of Action, they are youth organizers. Some of the project tasks fellows do include developing their call-to-action policy recommendations, conducting research, analyzing data, and presenting recommendations on tackling various social injustice issues.
The goal of ” Youth Action Days” is to allow fellows the opportunity to demand a seat at the table as a young person on the verge of making social change. At its core, it is about youth representation and showcasing that young people have a place to shed light on important social issues while devising ways to change them. Fellows with the help of their peers and coaches continue to break barriers within social injustice issues ranging from sexism, racism, police brutality, incrassation, LGBTQ rights, education system, sexual education, and more. Fellows also showcase their artistic talents and expression on some of these issues through the process of artivism. Their art pieces reflect activism in their unique ways of addressing these issues through their virtual reality art museums such as their ” Reimagining Black Liberation through Afrofuturism.” One of the fellows, Shaniah Taylor mentions “ This whole Gem Project experience opened up my ways of thinking when it comes to Social Justice because it’s steps to take before actually taking action. When it comes to building up a community we need to make sure everyone is on board and committed to the work they are putting in. We want to make sure that everyone is putting effort into their work and what they are trying to voice. This program has surrounded the idea of bringing youth into voicing their opinion and ideas when it comes to changing the justice system.”
We admire our fellows and all of their continuous contributions to the Gem Project. Since its inception in 2006, The Gem Project continues to provide high- quality programming enforcing leadership and community service among young high school and college leaders. It is about giving young people a chance at presenting why they need a seat at the table but also how they plan to do so. With the partnership of community organizations, fellows are able to 1. develop a social change orientation, 2. examine systemic issues and policies , 3. create their own policy recommendations for change, and 4. strengthen youth voice and responsibility.
“We champion on time graduation through peer mentoring, youth organizing, employment, and service-learning initiatives, with a social justice approach.”
Sierra Cole is a communications and public relations professional. In 2021 she joined The Gem Project as an inaugural Story Corps Fellow, capturing the stories and work of our youth organizers.⠀