There is a significant problem weighing down Mount Vernon and nobody has truly discussed it in any forum or debate during this election season. Where are all the young people? Now I fully understand the relationship that my generation has with politics, but I’m speaking about a problem bigger than politics. My issue is the lack of youth involvement in this city and I am placing the blame directly at the hands of the older generation in Mount Vernon.
I recently got into a minor tiff with a resident in this city about issues regarding spending in our city. We all have our own personal concern with how the city is run and I’ll never tell someone how they should think or answer a question. However, it seems that when older people speak out on issues, the younger generation is supposed to be complicit and can’t insert their own thoughts on the process. There lies the problem with a lot of the issues in our city. For years under several administrations that span from City Hall to School Board there seems to be a subconscious effort to muzzle and silence the voices of the younger generation. People might read that last sentence and not understand it, but from conversations I’ve had with a large portion of my peers it seems that people love to speak about how “Kids are the Future” yet nobody seems to ask them how they can contribute to it. Once again, this isn’t about politics or about specific individuals it’s about the general feeling that many people in the “millennial” age group feel when it comes to civic engagement.
People in this community seem to want to write off the views of younger generation because they are afraid of change. If it doesn’t fit the agenda of those who are entrenched then the view-point is dismissed. Well I come before you to tell you that you will never silence my voice or the voice of the young people in our generation. Young people lead revolutions and reform, Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X died at 39, Huey Newton died at 47, Steve Biko died at 30, Fred Hampton died at 21. Change comes in the form of youth involvement and there is NO coincidence that over the last 20 years there has been a serious lack of YOUTH INVOLVEMENT in the affairs of our city.
We speak so highly about or sports programs and the amount of talent that comes from Mount Vernon, but why doesn’t any of that TALENT stay in Mount Vernon? There is a generation of young people looking for guidance on how to make Mount Vernon a better place and it seems that those who are in thoroughly entrenched at the upper echelons of political power have no interest in the investment of the youth. It feels that there are few elders who are reaching back down and picking up the youth and teaching them their ways. Someone will read this and feel that I am a victim of this and there is not a yes/no answer to it. I’ve worked in County and City government and I can appreciate the experience I’ve received, however, I would be remiss to not observe the lack of young people in these places that I’ve been, especially young black people.
Nonetheless, people with degrees in majors that could help our city and knowledge on solutions that could change the path that our city has taken have neglected to share the wealth of knowledge with the youth. If I am lying I dare anyone to give me ten people under the age of 25 that disagree with my column. You can’t and you won’t and until that issue is addressed then the problem will persist in this city. Lastly, remember that respect is a two-way street and it is earned, not given. We are sick and tired of the lip service that we’ve been paid and I’ll be damned if I sit by and watch people destroy a city that I love. Mount Vernon is so unique that even though we are 4 square miles we also are a very connected community and I believe we need to tap into that connection to strengthen the bonds that have grown weak between the older and younger generations. So to those who are reading this and are of the older generation, talk to us, contact me, and let us find a way to bridge this gap and work to unite. To my younger generation, join us, let’s build and let’s put forth a plan that will change our city for decades to come.