Wilma Solomon, Princeton
“What gives you hope?” Ten years ago, within a week of each other, Eli Wiesel at Princeton University and the Dalai Lama at Rutgers University, responded to this exact question with the identical answer: “Young people!” That has stuck with me all these years.
At the time I was a little annoyed as their response seemed to remove responsibility from those of us no longer young, yet still working for change. Recently, I have every reason to be hopeful based on knowing these young members of our community. I met them through my membership in Not in Our Town, a Princeton-based grass roots group committed to racial justice.
Ziad Ahmed, a Princeton Day School junior, started redefy, an organization committed to countering stereotypes, and on Sunday, Dec. 13, at the Carl Fields Center, Princeton University, redefy will host a day long program, #TheGenerationofNow. The event will focus on racial justice and the goal is to inspire teenagers and community members to become engaged in social justice work. (redefy.org/2015/10/28/thegenerationofnow/).
Winona Guo and Priya Vulchi are Princeton High School juniors, and founders of CHOOSE, an advocacy effort to “overcome racism and inspire harmony through exposure, education, and empowerment.” In their “Engage” program, working with Princeton school administrators and faculty, they are organizing the many personal stories they have collected so that teachers can use them in the classroom to bring up the issues of race, racism, and racial justice (www.princetonchoose.org/#!engage-/c1ctm).
Tatianna Sims, a 2015 Princeton High School graduate, winner of a Princeton Prize in Race Relations and a Not in Our Town Unity Award, recently spearheaded a community Unity Walk and panel discussion. With the help of her student committee (and some support from the older generation) the event exemplified her mission of bringing people together to support youth, particularly those who feel disconnected from our community.
Over a hundred adults and youth, including political, community, and student leaders of all backgrounds, walked and talked. Adults spoke about the importance of their own mentors; students spoke about the need to reduce stereotyping and wondered how they could be advocates for their peers. The panelists ranged from the first African American Princeton mayor Jim Floyd, in his 90’s, to Princeton High School student leaders. For a glimpse of this gathering, here is a clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kpIEBQwKRKQ
During the event Mayor Liz Lempert announced the imminent establishment of a Youth Commission so that our younger voices can be heard in making decisions affecting our community.
So, what gives me hope? Young people AND not so young, in partnership!
Wilma Solomon, Princeton