Youth Voice Matters at Rethink New Orleans

By: Whitney Alexis, Guest Youth Blogger 

 

Rethink New Orleans is a youth-led organization that uses political education and action research to build organizing and leadership skills of New Orleans youth.   Rethink prepares a future for generations of young leaders equipped with the necessary tools to combat systems and who are committed to lifelong community engagement.    As a organization, Rethink is heavy on being a non-traditional learning space, teaching young people about dismantling social, political, and economic systems.

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Being in Rethink has encouraged me, along with other youth, to fight the education system and its practices.  Before joining Rethink, I wasn’t aware of white supremacy and other systems of oppression.  I rolled along with the punches even though I felt on the inside that something about my school and my experience wasn’t right.

In 2012, I was introduced to Rethink and was enlightened. Going to Rethink showed me that I wasn’t the only young person who felt that the schooling system was unfair or ineffective. We shared stories and created a home for youth to express their personal experiences about how school policies were unjust and discussed the school-to-prison pipeline. We also addressed how we, as youth, can fight the address the ways oppression shows up at our schools daily. Fighting this system became important for us because we’re affected by it daily in our schools and we’re disgusted with situations such as how our fellow classmates being suspended for not wearing the right color socks or leaving our school in handcuffs because the school didn’t know how to “handle” them.

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The skills I’ve been learning from Rethink, I have taken to the classroom in many ways. For instance, before Rethink I wasn’t aware of situations that went on at school and I didn’t pay attention to things that weren’t right.  After joining, however, every time I experienced patriarchy, adultism or any form of oppression, I can instantly address it.

Other Rethinkers have used the teachings of Rethink in their schools. For example, Ashley, a Rethinker since 2008, says “I can be a part of conversations about systems in my English IV class and understand how activists in the past have thought about fighting systems and I can understand their thought process. Also, I can share with my peers about sexism, racism and other oppressive systems.”

photo: kgm

Daria, a Rethinker since 2012 has also experienced things in her classroom that she has combated with the teachings of Rethink. She says, “Rethink teaches me things that a student can’t learn in a textbook by expanding my thinking and challenging my thoughts. In Rethink, you find more about yourself and figure out your culture.”

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Overall, Rethink has encouraged me along with other youth to be one with ourselves and challenge ourselves more than a school can. We are set to teach other young people about systemic issues that we were once taught before by our adult supporters.   Because of Rethink, we are eager and prepared to embrace our culture and our Black community, while also organizing to combat against many systems that are designed to push us down.

Whitney Alexis, 17, attends Joseph S. Clark (class of 2017).
She is a Lead Youth Organizer for Rethink Awethu Media Collective.
photos:  kgm
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Twitter:  @RethinkNOLA