Activists demand “Youth jobs now!”
A crowd estimated at 1,000 youth activists and organizers from across the state marched through downtown Boston last week, calling for more funding for youth jobs.
Billed as a rally, march and lobby day, the demonstration stopped traffic in downtown Boston as teens carrying signs and chanting “Youth jobs now!” took their message to elected officials.
The march started with a delegation of youth delivering a card at City Hall for Mayor Thomas M. Menino, thanking him for keeping city funding for youth jobs the same as it was last year.
The contingent then marched over to the John F. Kennedy Federal Building, where they failed to secure a meeting with recently elected Sen. Scott Brown, who voted “no” on a measure that would have funded more than 6,000 youth jobs in Massachusetts.
The youth explained they wanted a chance to persuade Brown to change his vote to “yes” on another bill, H.R. 4899, which the House recently passed with funding for youth jobs.
“I believe that Sen. Brown should vote for the youth jobs bill because Sen. Brown must look out for the future of his people,” said Troy Brandon of the Dorchester Bay Youth Force. “What could be a better way to start than providing jobs for teens in Boston and Massachusetts?”
The next stop for the youth activists was the Massachusetts Statehouse, where a contingent visited the offices of state legislators who will soon vote on budget amendments that were filed to reverse the 50 percent cuts that were made to the two state teen jobs programs YouthWorks and School to Career.
Youth activists said they wanted to make sure that political leaders understood the need for youth job funding.
“The biggest reason for me is that it is a learning experience,” said Janelle Batista, 17, of Jamaica Plain. “At my job, I’ve learned how to make a difference in my community. It is a learning experience for everybody.”
Hector Negron, a community organizer who works with The City School, added, “It is important for young people to have more than activities, but to also have a job.”
Jorge Martinez of Roxbury-based Project Right was equally emphatic. “To have young people off of the streets and into careers and contributing to civic society is important,” Martinez said. “Remember, it is these young people who will be taking care of us.”
Activists at the march overwhelmingly agreed that it would be a positive step for communities throughout Boston and the state of Massachusetts if youth jobs were funded.
Winston Cox, director of the Social Justice Academy in Hyde Park, put it simply. “We are going to pay one way or the other: either investing in our youth up front or dealing with the negative consequences of denying them jobs now,” he said. “Let’s do the right thing now!”