NYRA-Broward County: Calling for New Members!

Posted by on August 16th, 2016

NYRA-Broward County has been active for several years now, mostly thanks to their President Elijah. Elijah has been interested in youth rights from a very young age. He worked with NYRA for a years on the voting age through social media, as well as his activities at school. After building experience after experience, the chapter started after Elijah went to the county commission himself to ask for the municipal voting age to be lowered to 16. NYRA continued to help Elijah by promoting the 16 to Vote campaign over Twitter and other social media, and then NYRA President, Alex, asked him to start a chapter as he had been so active.

Today, the chapter is going through a lot rebuilding. Elijah has been focusing on recruiting, and plans to dedicate more time to the chapter after the recruitment process

As always, Elijah stays close to the voting age issue. He is active through his participation in county commission meetings, private meetings, research, and gaining a large presence on social media.

Interested in joining NYRA-Broward County? Email Elijah at elijah.manley@usa.com today!

NYRA-Twin Cities: Going Strong!

Posted by on August 9th, 2016

NYRA-Twin Cities has been in operation for several years now. Amy O’Connell, President, has been leading the group for almost half a decade.

Amy’s passion for youth rights came from her own experience dealing with adults. She was largely bullied in middle school and found that adults made the problem worse. She became involved in student rights and found NYRA through a quick online search. Though Amy was passionate about youth rights, she felt secluded from NYRA from her hometown in Minnesota. She decided the best way to feel active in NYRA was to create a group of her own right in her own state. And so, NYRA-Twin Cities was born in August of 2011. With NYRA’s help, she was able to gather a group of other local NYRA members, as well as some friends.

NYRA-Twin Cities has been involved in a number of campaigns over the years. One of their biggest was their partnership with The Hitting Stops Here, which was a campaign to encourage their District Congressman to sign HR 3027 (a bill to end the use of corporal punishment in schools). Though NYRA-Twin Cities has been a part of many types of campaigns, their focus has largely been on lowering the voting age to 16. They’ve promoted the #16toVote campaign on Twitter, and have supported other NYRA chapters in their endeavors. They also take on other campaigns not necessarily affiliated with NYRA. Recently they have been in contact with their local and state government representatives. Other efforts include recruitment, so as to better raise awareness in their community.

Want to get involved? Email Amy at aoconnell@youthrights.org and also check out their Facebook page!

The First “Underage” US Presidential Candidate Does Well in Green Party Primaries

Posted by on August 6th, 2016

Elijah Manley speaks at Green Presidential Nominating Convention 2016
History was made yesterday when 17-year-old Elijah D. Manley gave a speech at the Green Party Presidential Nominating Convention on Saturday, August 6, 2016, in Houston, Texas. Elijah is the first “underaged” presidential nominee to make it to a state ballot – two states, in his case – of one of the two largest third parties in the USA. This took a huge amount of work on his part, along with considerable support from the many true progressives within the Green Party. This also happened despite strong ageist opposition and obstruction from the centrists who are part of the Greens (which, sadly, includes the Co-Chair of the national party). In a big leap forward for youth rights, Elijah got on the Green ballot in two states, Maryland and his home state of Florida, where he took 41% of the vote, with only Green powerhouse Dr. Jill Stein coming in ahead! Though all the delegates from Maryland gave their votes to Stein, three of the seven delegates from Florida gave their votes to Elijah, with Stein receiving the other four. Unexpectedly, the District of Columbia gave Elijah a quarter of its delegate votes, with another quarter going to William Kreml and the remaining one and a half going to Stein. This was an extraordinary primary turn-out from the first “underage” presidential candidate to run a serious campaign.

Moreover, from listening to recordings of that speech, you will see that Elijah made a strong endorsement of incorporating youth liberation into the national platform of the Greens, to which he received a loud round of applause. He received further applause upon mentioning the hard work he has done for the recent initiative to lower the voting age to 16 in many U.S. municipalities, including his home Florida county of Broward. Elijah has been working to establish a chapter of NYRA in Broward County, whose Facebook group you can find here.

Elijah’s platform on youth rights, both for his candidacy as a Green and for the youth liberation organization Continental Youth Assembly (which he co-founded), have included not only the end to age restrictions on voting, but also opposition to corporal punishment, a ban on infant circumcision, the democratization of the schooling system – including student membership on the local school board, the end to standardized testing and the demeaning grading system, and the availability of alternative opportunities for receiving one’s education – the end of enforced age segregation in public places, the end of curfew laws, opposition to the drinking laws, support for the right to bodily autonomy, allowing youths to enter the labor force and receive full remuneration for doing so, the end to gulag camps, freedom of speech and access to information, freedom of religious worship (including the right to dissent from religious worship altogether), and a legal declaration that children and younger adolescents are not the property of their parents.

As Elijah’s campaign manager, I understand that many youth liberationists do not support the Green economic policies, but that is not the issue here. I’m hoping this will simply spur our fellow youth liberationists to encourage their own political party of choice – e.g., the Libertarians (which has often been youth-friendly in the past), Democrats, Republicans, etc. – to likewise adopt youth lib into their national platform. We do not want youth liberation to ever become a partisan issue. Where all of us may differ with agreement on various economic issues (or even certain domestic and foreign policy issues), we can nevertheless unite on the basis of getting all political parties to support and incorporate youth liberation into its mission statement.

This accomplishment from Elijah should be applauded by all youth liberationists, regardless of which political affiliation you stand behind, as it has taken all of us one further step towards bringing youth liberation into mainstream politics in general. Even as we strive to get the Green Party to incorporate youth lib into its national platform, so can non-Green youth liberationists take this as encouragement to work equally hard to get your own political party to do the same!

Watch Elijah give his historic speech about the importance of youth rights (video starts at 1:25:13):

The Texas #16toVote Story

Posted by on July 18th, 2016

Bryce Hall is the current President of the 16toVote Texas chapter located in North Richland Hills. Read more about what his group is doing here.

One afternoon I was sitting on my couch watching an innocent teenager being detained on the news. His mom and step-dad were extremely abusive and he didn’t want to leave his dad’s house. But by law, he must. So his mom ordered the police to use all force to remove him from the vehicle.

That one clip got me thinking; that teenager should have some rights over himself. Later on, more and more examples started clicking in my head and made me finally realize something. The youth of America and I have no rights whatsoever. We’re all equally looked down upon by the elderly as delinquents and trouble-makers, not as hard-working, young adults. We pay taxes, we’re learning more political information everyday, and we’re being unfairly drafted. For example, the 2016 election, whichever candidate wins has the authority to declare war. I will be 18 in 2 years and so the president can draft me into that war. I had no say in determining whether that candidate was right for office.   

I had to do something that would put an effort into stopping this. And that was to vote. Voting does a lot in our lives. It makes all of us proud to be free to choose who would make our lives more successful, and more free. If I had the right to vote, I could vote for whoever was on my side, a candidate that believes in Youth Rights, and understands the troubles in life that we deal with.

In January 2016, I was extremely determined to turn my dream into my goal. I started printing out petitions and getting signature after signature. Many friends believed in my goal and joined in the campaign. This was getting big.

On March 16, 2016, my Vice President and I visited the Capitol Building in Austin. We visited many Representative offices. We even had a meeting with one! It was truly amazing. This was the day I finally admitted, “there’s no turning back”. That was the day we officially started our campaign: Texas Vote16.

That next month, my staff and I were on track with this campaign! We started e-mailing representative after representative, and having more meetings and discussions. We all felt so grateful that there’s some hope that this might actually turn into a reality. Later on, I was surfing the web looking for more resources on this issue and I came across the National Youth Rights Association. I immediately emailed them and explained our campaign. That week I got an email back stating how much support and information they would give our campaign.

Now, my staff and I are taking a huge step forward by hosting a rally! NYRA has been so helpful, and is still our backbone through this campaign. I plan on keeping this campaign growing by the minute, with all the help from my staff, supporters, and NYRA. I have learned so much from this campaign. I already knew not to allow anyone to look down upon me because of my age, but now I have learned to set an example for other young adults who have dreams just like me.

Ageism and a Bike Thief: When We Should and Shouldn’t Respect Our Elders

Posted by on July 13th, 2016

I recently got into an argument with a stranger who was trying to cut through my bike lock with a torch. This was in the middle of a crowd, and I knew he would be long gone if I waited for the police to show up. When I saw him at work, I figured that this is someone who slinks around looking only for unguarded valuables. He’s not scary, and he knows it.

Sure enough, as soon as he realized he’d been found out, he immediately started offering me money—first for my bike, and then as a bribe. But in a fit of adrenaline-fueled outrage, I simply said to him, “That’s really sad you don’t have anything better to do with your life than steal a cheap bike off the street.”

He stammered and then eventually said, “I do have something better.”

I gestured for him to leave. “Go and do it then.”

He started to go, and then turned back and said, “Hey, you can’t talk to me like that. You’re just a kid, you gotta show some respect. You can’t talk to me like that.”

I started trying to take his picture, but he ran off into the crowd, and that was it.

When I told the story to my family, they were of course surprised to hear that I was the “kid,” not the bike thief. It doesn’t even occur to most of us that a middle-aged adult could commit a petty crime against someone younger. Worse crimes (abuse, abduction, etc.) we can see, but it’s difficult for us even to picture an older adult vandalizing or stealing a young person’s possessions. Such a thing would be absurd, almost comical, like something out of a Seth Rogen film.

But this really happened to me. And the incident left me—for the thousandth time since I was a teenager—unsure about whether I really am a kid. Recently, I’ve found that I’ve unconsciously identified with adulthood, using “we” whenever I refer to this group. But the instant I feel sure the world has recognized that I’m not a kid anymore, someone will call me one, or treat me like one (e.g. liquor store clerks pointedly scrutinizing my ID far longer than they could possibly need to).

I’m in a period of life psychologists have recently started calling “emerging adulthood.” Evidently, adolescence isn’t enough of a buffer between childhood and adulthood, so another one had to be tacked on. No doubt within a decade or two, psychologists will have discovered yet another period of development after emerging adulthood, and called it “new adulthood,” or something similar. As depressing as this trend of inventing more and more age-based labels may sound for youth rights (two was more than enough), the good news is that if it goes on unchecked, we must inevitably reach a moment when there are so many stages preceding adulthood that hardly anyone ever reaches it. Once that happens, youth rights will have to become relevant to everyone.

The concept of emerging adulthood allows society to see me as a kid—when it’s convenient. If I were arrested for a crime (especially one that people are currently eager to see punished), this same society would reverse its opinion, and decide that I was an adult—though it would, of course, continue to call me a “kid” out of pure spite. Nothing can get me out of being called a kid—not good behavior, not bad behavior, and not anything in between.

My thief knew this. I suspect that the reason he chose to point out our relative ages was that there was no other way for him to win the moral high ground. He couldn’t even fault me for being more privileged than he was, since he clearly wasn’t starving or homeless. He could also apparently afford quality sneakers—not to mention a quality blowtorch (assuming, of course, that he didn’t steal these things). And not only did he offer me money, he also admitted to me, “I do have something better [to do with my life].” It seems pretty clear, all things considered, that stealing my bike was something he was doing by choice, not out of resignation or desperation.

It’s easy to laugh and say he was talking nonsense. After all, who has the gumption to criticize the manners of someone he’s just tried to rob? But then we have to remember that there are many people in this country, and in this world, who would hear my story and stand up for my thief, and tell me he was right: I had no right to talk to him the way I did, even in light of the circumstances. Respect for one’s elders, they would argue, is unconditional. Even if a young person has to call the police on someone older, he should never forget his place: he should show respect even while dialing the number.

As I understand it, this expectation is based on the principle that every adult is a representative of the institution of adulthood, just as the president is a representative of the government. To disrespect one adult is to disrespect them all. I wasn’t just showing contempt for my bike thief, but for every single one of my elders, all the way from my parents to my grandmother to the Pope.

But this justification is problematic. When one person represents a whole institution, that institution is also responsible for his actions. If my bike thief behaved disgracefully in his capacity as a representative of adulthood (which he did), then the entire institution of adulthood behaved disgracefully. When this happens, an institution has the responsibility to impeach its representative. Yet to my knowledge, no adult in the history of Western civilization has ever been “impeached”—that is, stripped of his status as an adult—because of his disgraceful conduct. Even if I’d succeeded in getting him arrested and sent off to jail, it would never happen. According to our view, no middle-aged adult could commit a crime so heinous that he deserved to be taunted by children, or even by older “kids” like me. If this isn’t clear, we should imagine what would happen if I visited my thief in his jail cell, in the company of other adults his age. They could scold him and disrespect him without any problems. But if I did the same, these adults would become extremely uncomfortable and likely object to my behavior, reminding me that even though he was in jail, he was still my elder. They would want me to show him special respect, no matter what he’d done.

But it is immoral for a person or institution to demand privileged respect—even from a child—without accountability. In fact, it is amoral, since without accountability, morality cannot exist. This idea goes back to Locke: to give anyone unconditional privilege is inconsistent with a civilized society.

This is something children understand intuitively. It’s only through “teaching” that that they come to forget it: a process that begins well before adolescence. If we’re lucky, in our teen years we still have enough good childish sense to distrust words like, “respect,” which are touted as “pillars of character”—yet are hardly ever honored by the adults we are supposed to be emulating. I was one of the only people I knew who managed to escape both the hypocrisy of my elders and the nihilism of my peers, repeating over and over again, “I believe in respect, but I won’t respect a teacher who doesn’t respect me.”

There is only one way for adults to rightfully deserve special respect from young people (or from anyone): by being kind and honest, and generally doing good things for humanity. Needless to say, there are many adults who pass this test. But truly respectable people don’t feel the need to be constantly reassured about it. If we pay close attention, we’ll see that the adults who are most adamant about their juniors showing them respect tend to be those who least deserve it: those who are insecure, having little to be proud of, and few real accomplishments to their name. Truly respectable people have the humility—or the dignity, depending on how you look at it—not to strut around “teaching people their place,” and demanding that their critics retract disrespectful statements under threat of punishment. The only possible reason to behave this way is a deep-seated fear of being, in reality, unrespectable: a fear that proves itself true the more we use force to try to assuage it.

It’s sad that so many people reach middle age without either understanding or deserving respect. And it’s also sad that many have nothing better to do with their lives than to try and make young people as miserable as possible—or what is essentially the same thing, to disregard (or even brag about) the suffering we cause them in our quest to “benefit” them. This is a cycle: a virus of bitterness that gets passed from one generation to the next. This virus depends on the model of treating elders with unconditional respect, and young people with unconditional disrespect, reinforcing the notion that how we behave doesn’t matter, that fairness is nonsense, and that to improve our lot is beyond our control.

None of this would be possible if we started applying moral rather than amoral expectations to people of all ages: considering everyone to be capable of earning or losing respect according to their actions, not their age. If we could accomplish that, the chances of someone abandoning morality and reaching middle age without having done anything respectable would be far smaller. At the very least, thieves, bullies, sadists, and hypocrites would no longer feel entitled to special treatment from their juniors, when in fact they did not deserve it from anyone.

Cole Harper – Summer Fellow Reflection

Posted by on July 8th, 2016

Cole Harper - NYRA pictureI became interested in the National Youth Rights Association through a passion in education reform. America’s education system is falling behind. A shocking amount of schooling is about organizing and controlling students – telling kids where to line up, keeping them still while they sit through a lecture they aren’t listening too, or making them stare at a wall while they wait for their classmates to finish a test.

If we want our education system to truly thrive, we need to trust our students and create more opportunities for them to independently study and learn what they’re passionate about. The poor performance of our students is a product of babying and micromanaging them.

“Forty years ago, the distinguished anthropologist Clifford Geertz said that human beings are “unfinished animals.” What he meant is that it is human nature to have a human nature that is very much the product of the society that surrounds us. That human nature is more created than discovered. We “design” human nature, by designing the institutions within which people live.” 1 Schwartz, Barry. “The False Rationale.” Why We Work. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2015. 10. Print.

Attending the NYRA Fellow Orientation this summer in Washington DC helped me see how problems in our education system are part of a large problem of how we view youth in our society.

We have constructed a society in which we treat youth as helpless children who need to be watched and controlled at all times by adults. In the words of Dr. Robert Epstein, we have “extended childhood” beyond its normal, healthy limits, and “infantilized” our youth. 2Males, Mike. “Why ‘Adolescence’ Was a Harmful Invention.” Youth Today. Youth Today, 01 Aug. 2007. Web. 26 June 2016.

While there are many organizations that fight for youth and child related entitlement issues, National Youth Rights Association is the only organization fighting to protect and establish civil rights for young people. This includes fighting for the civil rights of students, rights to participate in our democracy, protection from youth discrimination laws, etc.

Often we are quick to associate certain issues with a certain political party. You care about more funding for education? Well then you must be a Democrat. You care about gun rights? Well then you must be a Republican. NYRA is a refreshing break from this partisan jigsaw puzzle.

Prominent Democrats think our society’s views on youth are outdated. Nancy Pelosi has openly endorsed the idea of lowering the voting age to 16 or 17. 3Kay, Jazmin. “Nancy Pelosi Proposes Lowering The Voting Age To 16 or 17.” Generation Progress. Generation Progress, 6 Aug. 2015. Web. 26 June 2016. Prominent Republicans think our society’s views on youth are outdated. Newt Gingrich, in his review of Robert Epstein’s book Teen 2.0 remarks “Adolescence was invented in the nineteenth century to enable middle-class families to keep their children out of sweatshops. But it has degenerated into a process of enforced boredom and age segregation that has produced one of the most destructive social arrangements in human history…It’s a social experiment that failed.” 4Epstein, Robert. “Reviews and Awards for Teen 2.0.” Teen 2.0. Robert Epstein, n.d. Web. 26 June 2016.

NYRA advocates that if we want our youth to be contributing members of our society, we need to entrust them with rights equal to every other member of society. It’s a position advocated for among political leaders of each major party, prominent academics, and one I’m proud to represent as a NYRA Fellow.

References   [ + ]

The Fight for Youth Suffrage

Posted by on June 28th, 2016

This is a transcript of a speech I gave to the Broward County Commission in support of lowering the voting age. The Commission is now supporting a resolution to lower the voting age to sixteen. Watch video here.

The Fight for Youth Suffrage
By Elijah Manley

Dear Broward County Board of County Commissioners,

Good Morning, My name is Elijah Manley. I’m going to read to you a letter, from the Youth of Broward County.

Dear Board, throughout the history of our great country, masses, groups, and demographics have fought for their civil rights – most notably suffrage.
From the dawn of slavery, to the Voting Rights Act of 1965;
From involuntary servitude, to the 19th amendment in the 1920s;
From oppression, to the passage of the 26th amendment.
Until today; the passage of a series of lowering the voting age restrictions locally.

And for so long, the fighters were told that they shouldn’t vote; that they don’t have the same equal rights and protections under the law; that they are not smart and intelligent enough to vote; Remember those words from the 1960s? Well today, we’re doing just that – by denying a group of people the right to suffrage and equal rights under the law, because of their age.

Oppression. Discrimination. Ageism. The cries of those who beg for the vote; the bellowing howls of those that stand on the street screaming for suffrage. It is us! America’s youth. Standing here, asking, begging, for suffrage, for the vote.

Mr. Chair, or Mayor, a group of Americans today, are asking for the vote as all others have historically. The dark shadows of the oppressors will dusk up against us. It will rise, and it will oppose the civil rights of young people – the youth rights. Just as Jim Crow did right here in the south. This is a movement. A cry from the voices of millions of oppressed youth; from the restrained, the unheard, the disenfranchised, the ignored.

For one second–place yourself in the shoes of a slave.
The cloudy skies, a lost nation, a nation on the verge of falling.
Then that day came; That the slave was free. Emancipation!
Their long cry was heard. I can only imagine how that feels.
Today, America’s youth cry for emancipation through suffrage, at sixteen.

I’m formally asking the county commission to, that if it is really about action, to entertain a motion through whatever procedure necessary; to lower the voting age to sixteen in Broward County only, for municipal and county elections. Because as President Lyndon B. Johnson said – “A man without a vote, is a man without protection.” Stand up, and if you’re really about action, violate the state law for the common good, and for the civil equal rights and equal protection under the law that the constitution guarantees to everyone regardless of their age.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

The fight for #youthliberation is here! From Broward County, Florida, I am a student union leader, and founder of the Continental Youth Assembly.

Jamie Delaney – Summer Fellow Reflection

Posted by on June 23rd, 2016

Jamie - NYRA pictureIt is a great honor to serve as a NYRA fellow and I am excited to help out as much as I can. Orientation was an amazing experience full of reflection and insight. I really appreciated all the great discussions I had with my fellow activists and with NYRA members. The combination of lectures, discussions, data presentation, expert opinion, and movies, really brought everything together for me about how I feel regarding youth rights.

What astounds me about youth rights is how seemingly subtle it is. I do not believe the average American realizes how the treatment of youth in this country is similar to other oppressed groups. Other civil rights movements, like women’s rights, African American rights, and LGBTQ rights, have been fleshed out and have drawn the attention of the majority of people. Today, these civil rights issues are openly talked about. But, even in the earliest moments of these movements, these civil rights violations seemed subtle to the average person as well. When slavery was incredibly common, less people realized the violations against African slaves. When the women’s movement was quiet, most people did not realize how marginalized women were. This rings true for every oppressed group. What changed? How did these civil rights movements become well-known, even mainstream? It took hard working, dedicated people to advocate for their cause. Youth rights is still relatively unknown, and so I have the motivation to bring it to the public eye.

And yet, youth rights is different from the rest. Unlike other civil rights movements, every single person in this country has been oppressed simply because everyone was once in their youth. That is the astounding thing about youth rights. It has affected each individual, regardless of gender, sex, ethnicity, or religion, and I think that will be the key to promoting youth rights now and in the future.

Keoni Scott-Reid – Summer Fellow Reflection

Posted by on June 15th, 2016

Keoni - NYRA pictureMy name is Keoni Orlando Scott-Reid and over the weekend I attended a 3 day orientation program for the National Youth Rights Association. I was exposed to a mountain of youth rights stances and and the various types of oppression youth as a whole face every single day. As a youth, I can say to an extent that I had the preconceived notion that my autonomy and choices were controlled. However, I never considered how such a controlled environment supposedly benefited me as a person or to society as a whole. The youth inherit the land, so therefore they should get a say in what that land is and does. Everyday I attend compulsory schooling and acquiesce to learn and participate in things that I do not want to, which do not befit my interests. I am in an environment where I am constantly scrutinized, marginalized and criminalized, but yet the masses consent to my misery as being appropriate for my ultimate benefit. The masses expect me to tolerate authoritarianism in school, but fight it in the real world. The masses hold the idea that by somehow restricting my freedom and choices, it will help me be a productive and inclusive member of this society. But throughout all, the masses have never asked for my thoughts on the matter. This past weekend with NYRA has opened my eyes to see the constant trivialization that we as youth face, and has in turn propelled me to personally fight at all costs the constant oppression of ageism in America. WE ARE PEOPLE WE MATTER.

Alyssa Devine – Summer Fellow Reflection

Posted by on June 15th, 2016

Alyssa - NYRA pictureI was completely unfamiliar with youth rights before getting involved with NYRA. As a youth myself, I experienced discrimination and ageism but always assumed society would drop its attitude toward me when I became 18. I never once thought that youth could be treated as equal citizens in my community. The idea simply never occurred to me.

It is ironic that one of the most vulnerable demographics in the country, youth, is provided less rights and protections than adults. For example, school personnel are legally authorized to violate youth by searching and seizing cell phones, bags, and other personal property without warrants because many rights and protections to not apply to individuals under 18. These instances are common, but NYRA aims to collaboratively work with youth to change legislation and policy so that they are treated equally and protected from ageism.

NYRA’s mission to enhance youth rights and equally is unique because it addresses youth discrimination and issues. One of the organization’s strengths is it relies on grassroots campaigns in which youth fight on their own behalf with minimal guidance from NYRA. This model is vital to NYRA’s mission as it empowers youth to change their own communities.

Although new, the youth rights movement has been able to learn from other civil rights groups throughout history which strengthens NYRA’s ability to empower youth to fight for equality. The Fourteenth Amendment forbids denying any person equal protection of law. Youth are people and they deserve to be treated as such. That is NYRA’s mission.

Because of NYRA I have come to understand how and why youth should become citizens with the full rights and protections that are already guaranteed for those who have reached the age of majority. I am grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the youth rights movement and am looking forward to witnessing history being made.

NYRA’s mission centers on challenging age discrimination against young people, both in law and in attitudes and supporting the basic freedoms afforded to young Americans in the Bill of Rights.