Youth Narratives Matter

Posted on May 20, 2020


I will watch my words. I pledge to be intentional in my words when I speak to or about young people. I pledge to correct media, nonprofits, and funders when they use coded language to describe youth. I pledge to stand with young leaders as they work to transcend the harmful narratives around youth, as they take control of their own stories. #wearenotatrisk


Today I took the following pledge:

I/We will stand with 3 billion youth around the world by signing this pledge to:

Bring more youth voices into media narratives. Frame stories about young people in humanistic ways that do not contribute to their oppression. Shed light on systemic challenges (e.g. unemployment) many young people face and solutions they create in their communities. 

I found this pledge when I was thinking about the phrase “decolonize your mind,” which I learned from bell hooks as an undergrad in education at EMU.

I was reminded of this phrase when Crash Course European History #43 posted a new video–on the topic of Decolonization.

After watching that informative video, I Googled the phrase, “How To Decolonize Your Mind,” and I found this great, simple list of Five Things You Can Do To Decolonize by Nia Eubanks-Dixon. Dixon advocates for youth and for positive media narratives about youth as part of We Are Not at Risk, a youth-led campaign that challenges us to rethink the words we use to talk about young people. Dixon describes the group and their efforts in this podcast.  You can see and hear young participants from around the world speak for themselves in this video.

As a high school teacher, I advocated for many young people regarding language issues at school, so I didn’t hesitate to support their campaign. I have advocated for young people who are speakers of African American Vernacular English,  members of the LGBTQ community, and students whose primary language is not English. I like that pledge, and I hope to see other educators and youth advocates join me in making a commitment to watch my words.

Growing up can be a difficult process, but by being mindful of the language we use with and about young people, we can make things a tiny bit easier.

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lisa eddy is a writer, researcher, educator, advocate,  musician, and gardener.

On Twitter: @lisa_eddy

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