Letter from the Guest Editor

By Jennie Barron

Aug 14, 2021


Welcome to our youth-themed issue. Here we present work by a variety of contributors representing diverse backgrounds and perspectives – youth, leaders of youth, allies of youth, and advocates for youth. The pieces speak to youth, of youth and their concerns, and about how we can all work together to change things for today’s youth, while appreciating ever more how young people’s activism can enable liberation for people of all ages.

Not surprisingly, themes running through this work include climate change, racism, and ageism – all subjects we know to have strong currency among youth. Other themes include precarious housing and decolonization – the latter being just one of many stops on the long road to reconciliation, a project that spans many generations. These pieces are united not just by the theme of youth, but by the sense of urgency, and the hunger for truth-telling, agency, and solidarity that animate struggles for social and environmental justice today. 

Graeme Lee Rowlands combines a review of Seth Klein’s very timely new book: A Good War: Mobilizing Canada for the Climate Emergency, with a policy proposal and description of a youth-empowering project Rowlands himself dreamed up. Supported by the BC-based environmental non-profit Wildsight, the Youth Climate Corps is entering its second year supporting youth to take climate action while doing meaningful – and compensated – work to adapt to and mitigate climate change within our communities. 

Zaynab Mohammed’s poetic contribution explores the multi-faceted emotion of hate – not just what happens when we succumb to it, but what hate does to us, draining, imprisoning, diminishing us and “bending our thoughts in half”. Makram Daou’s fiercely vibrant illustration complements the poem with visceral impact.

Meredith Macdonald shares her experience as a teenager and young adult living in Sorella House, a not-for-profit housing complex in the downtown eastside (DTES) of Vancouver, also known as the poorest postal code in Canada. She gives us a rare inside glimpse into the experience of those who are too often forgotten, neglected, and disrespected, and how they turn to each other to get by. Reading it reminds us of Gandhi’s assertion that poverty is violence, and that nonviolence, as a response, requires our attention to dignity. 

Xochilt Ramirez’s piece about the REDress Project speaks to the challenges of making change when we feel we are swimming against a current of public indifference and historical amnesia. Yet it is equally an illustration of how things can be different for our young people, if we – parents and other adults – commit ourselves to truth-telling, to filling gaps in our understanding and educational curricula, and re-writing “her-story”.  It is about the importance of opening up spaces for dialogue where Indigenous women and girls’ voices can be heard. Sometimes it is in silence that we hear the most.

Jamie Hunter brings us the perspective of a young person who has recently but emphatically found his voice, one that reflects both a determined spirit and a gentle touch. He gives us a glimpse of youth activism that is equally about the pursuit of meaningful outcomes and thoughtful attention to process, an approach he says was fostered by his two years taking peace and justice studies at Selkirk College. 

Gabriel Ertsgaard’s interview with Ariel Otterstad and Mark Dellagiacoma about youth ministry in the Lutheran church in Texas illustrates a very different approach to social change – not overt activism at all, but a subtle, dropping-crumbs or planting-seeds approach. The interviewees note how much social change has actually been achieved in the space of a generation, and how much power youth have to foster more transformation, if they have the support and encouragement of their elders.

Edward Hasbrouck offers up thoughtful views on youth and liberation from military conscription. He articulates ageism to anti-draft and anti-war positions, arguing that it is incumbent upon us to see and engage with this additional layer of oppression, the taken-for-granted discrimination that characterizes compulsory service or participation in war. As allies or would-be allies of youth, older adults must see ageism as a problem of older people, just as white people must play a role in resisting and dismantling racism, and men must see feminism as their issue, too. As in other movements, allyship in the anti-draft movement is not just about “saving” those most oppressed but about liberating us all.

Throughout this issue we see the agency, passion, and power of youth. Yet this issue is not intended as a tribute, nor an excuse for the rest of us to cheerlead from the sidelines. The hope for change that youth represent is something that older adults must actively cultivate with our support. The mantra of youth in the sixties, “Never trust anyone over 40” may still ring true today, but that doesn’t mean youth want to struggle for peace alone. Each generation has unique gifts to contribute to the realization of our collective potential for living together justly and well. This issue is about listening, bridging, and committing to navigating the road ahead together.