By Andre Dean, Dean & Associates
The aspirations, dreams, and concerns of Memphis youth are invaluable and should be given the opportunity to actively contribute to the decisions that shape their lives. History has shown us the transformative power of youth voices bringing about significant social and political change.
Drawing inspiration from historic movements like The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), we should all be brainstorming ways that we can engage our youth in local politics, empowering them to use their individual voices to facilitate change. By harnessing the passion and creativity of young people, we can unlock their full potential.
With the upcoming Memphis Mayoral election in October, there is no better time to engage our youth and empower them to let their voices be heard.
Challenges Memphians Face
Memphis and the surrounding area face numerous challenges, including socio-economic disparities, limited access to quality education, a lack of affordable housing, and the growing issue of crime. To effectively address these challenges, it is crucial to involve all segments of society, including our youth.
Engaging young voters can bring new energy, fresh perspectives, and innovative solutions to the forefront. By actively participating in local voting, young individuals can play a pivotal role in shaping policies that address these pressing issues and create a more equitable and vibrant Memphis.
Barriers to Youth Engagement
Unfortunately, there are several barriers that hinder youth from fully engaging in the voting process. One significant barrier is the lack of awareness about the importance of their voices and the impact they can have through voting. Limited access to information about voter registration, polling locations, and candidates also poses a challenge.
Often, there is a sense of apathy among young people who may believe that their votes won’t make a difference or that their voices won’t be heard. It is our responsibility to dispel these misconceptions and provide the necessary knowledge and tools to overcome the barriers.
Strategies to Promote Youth Engagement
Promoting youth engagement in the democratic process requires a collective effort from individuals, organizations, and the community as a whole. Community organizations can contribute by offering mentorship programs, civic workshops, and voter registration drives, empowering young voters and providing them with useful, timely resources.
Educational institutions, where our youth spend most of their time, hold immense potential for fostering civic engagement, especially when shaped by student-led organizations, such as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). This historical initiative, driven by young Black students, played a pivotal role in the Civil Rights Movement. John Lewis, a prominent leader within SNCC, exemplified the impact of youth in shaping history.
By integrating civics education into college and university curricula, we empower students to grasp the significance of their participation and the lasting impact they can make. Serving as a powerful example, Southwest Community College recently won an award for voter registration efforts during National Voter Registration month in November 2022. This should inspire institutions to engage youth in local politics, paving the way for a brighter future shaped by young voices.
What You Can Do
To actively promote youth engagement in local voting, there are several steps that can be taken:
- Register to vote: Ensure that you are registered to vote by visiting the appropriate voter registration website or local election office.
- Stay informed: Follow local news outlets, social media platforms, and community organizations to stay updated on local elections, candidates, and initiatives.
- Spread awareness: Utilize social media – a powerhouse for sharing information. Use these digital platforms to educate and engage young individuals, facilitate meaningful conversations, and create a sense of community around civic participation. Share information about the upcoming mayoral election with your friends, family, and peers. Encourage them to register and participate in the democratic process.
- Support youth development organizations: Get involved with local organizations that focus on youth development and community engagement. These organizations play a vital role in nurturing and empowering young individuals.
By taking these actions, we can foster a culture of active civic engagement among Memphis youth. Together, we can create a future where young voices are amplified and the challenges our communities face are met with innovative and inclusive solutions. Let’s empower Memphis youth to make their voices heard and shape a brighter future for our beloved city.