JOIN OUR NEWSLETTER
img

Youth Rights Poetry

Written by NYRA Apr 22, 2011

11 Days Ago

If someone put a pillow over your face, you’d fight back too
Pillows are soft
And you’re using one to protect me
But what you’ve actually done is erected
a tiny, invisible prison, one that I haven’t elected
But there is no election, not for me
My vote is a useless expression
It’s influence constantly neglected
But you say that you’re trying to protect me

I am young
I cannot vote for my congress or president
There is a repugnant, oppressive precedent
that dictates that I cannot vote, I cannot drive, I cannot work, I cannot be outside of school at day, or outside of the house at night, I cannot sign contract, I cannot get loans, I cannot flee my parent’s home, no matter how oppressive or disdainful because a cop will arrest me halfway across the country for the crime of wanting to be free

But no longer is this me
I turned 18 eleven days ago
In one swoop, you’ve given me my freedom, my rights, my vote
12 days ago, I was incompetent
but 11 days ago, I’ve been granted my humanness
I’ve seen the arbitrary nature of your ageist laws for years
You said when I turned 18 that I would stop with my whining and tears
And I’ve considered that notion and possessed that fear
Now that I’m 18,
Now that I’ve gotten my maturity in the mail,
Now that my brain has started to function and my ability to reason has finally emerged,
I will fight harder against your ageist laws that when I was a person in training

by Nigel Jones

Yours No Longer

I have waded onto the beaches of Normandy.
I have marched through the rice patties of Vietnam.
I have been attacked by dogs, police and fire hoses in the streets of Montgomery.
I have been whipped and beaten and scarred and murdered by those who should love me most.
I have fought your battles and followed your leaders and died for your causes.
I have had enough.
My next war will be fought for me.
My next leader will speak for me.
… and when I die, I will die for no one by myself.

by Alex Koroknay-Palicz

Why We Can’t Wait

I look at the people around me and see the prisons and traps
we’re all stuck in. From an early age we are taught and trained
shown that we should stay put, sit still, hold on, walk (don’t run),
and be quiet. Whatever you do, be quiet.

So we do. We go to polite schools or content jobs and type and
read and feel nice. Our hair’s nice and our hearts are nice. We
live nice lives.

But what if… what if we were shown the whole picture from the first
day? What if they said “Hey, when you’re poor, you’re screwed.
If you’re black, you’re challenged. If you’re female, you’re up a creek
. Oh, yeah, and you’ll be young too! Let’s not even go there!”

What if we could awaken all people to the chains that tie them down?
What if everyone saw that we’re responsible for holding ourselves
down? What if the message of systematic and deliberate oppression
was exposed and the entire society- everyone everywhere- saw
that young people are looked down up, frowned upon, sat upon and
shat upon throughout their whole youth…

Then they become adults. And the world turns, and they start pooping
on youth… and the cycle continues…

We’ve gotta speak up. We’ve gotta act up. We’ve gotta quit putting
up, giving up and settling down.

We cannot wait any longer.

Its time to get up. Stand up. Scream out loud. Dream out loud.
We’ve gotta break outta the chains that hold us down. We’ve
gotta stand up for what is ours: freedom. The freedom to earn.
The freedom to learn. The freedom to speak. The freedom to
serve.

We’ve gotta tie people together instead of tearing them apart. We’re
taught that we’re not the same because we’re young and old, black
and white, educated and ignorant, rich and poor.

But we’re the same. And that’s why young people have gotta be free.

No one is free until everyone is free. Free Youth Now.

by Adam Fletcher
Download the spoken word version by Robert Grant here.

Non-Person

You speak as if I’m not here, but I hear.
You act as if I don’t care, but I do.
You treat me like your property, but I’m not.
You hurt me as if I’ll heal, but I won’t.
You pretend as if I won’t fight back, and I will.

by Alex Koroknay-Palicz

Untitled

They say you’ll be useless if you don’t go through school.
Well i’m alive and well, I see their all a bunch of fools!

I tried hard to stay peaceful, happy and true.
I tried to defend us, ostricized were me and you.
I surivived all the fighting, knives and betrayal.
Forcefully hailed all my teachers, so stale.

I felt all your terror, horror and cries.
Gangs of all colors, gender and size.
Holy frustration, evil compromise!

People with concepts, setting my pace.
Hate and destruction, no rights to your fate.

Most all that youve heard, contains no real truth.
The facts have been fed, goodluck finding some use.

Ozzy said this before, well I shall say it again.
“I’ll give you no bullshit and ill never pretend”

by Andrew Ericson

Thanks to Zero Tolerance

Who invented zero tolerance
Deserves eternal fame.
With a few strokes of a pen
He made every case the same. An Uzi on a student’s arm,
A nail file in a purse,
Neither one is tolerable,
And neither one is worse — By rules of zero tolerance,
Where judgment’s of no use,
Where weighing circumstances
Is a form of mind abuse. So thanks to zero tolerance,
There’s equal punishment instead
Of all the tiresome effort
Of trying to use one’s head.

by Dominic Martia

The Suicide Retirement of Old Man Jackson
(Or, An Ode to Youth Activism)

I.

Distract, little friend, look away to the other side
Extract, then you’ll feel no more insolent pride
I disguise the way I feel about the issue
So its bones and your will rot away like tissue

Reply, pathetic whiner, to this chant:
“Imprison them! Extinguish them!”
But is it that they can’t?
“They never go out, they don’t feel shame”
“Little maggots, like moths to the flame”

Surrender the cause and embrace your chains
They may be too heavy, but isn’t it the same?
This sarcastic, caustic, and flippant narrative
Would anyone stand and would they even care if
You jumped up and down or chewed while you spoke?
Time will come and truth will tell – this revolution is a joke

II.

A youth to his tormentor: “Damn you and your rule!”
The tormentor in rebuke: “Shut up and go to school!”

A slave to her master: “Who died and made you God?”
The master in reply: “50 lashings for questioning my law.”

A protester to riot cops: “I stand for justice and cause.”
The man on the horse: “I’ll take from you what they just lost.”

III.

On it goes into oblivion
On it goes – why not just give in?
You don’t have a hope
You don’t have a prayer
Why do you bother?
Why do you care?

Hold on to these words – they’re a buoy so you won’t drown
Grasp a hold tightly because this ship is going down
You’ll need something bitter and you’ll need something fake
You’ll come grab this poem and with it you’ll take

Two hundred fifty million – plus one, that’s you
The rest of them can march there, stuck together like glue
They’ll raise their pickets and they’ll shout their songs
As they go on we’ll be long gone
Into the hell of despair and of toil
Gone from this earth and left of this soil

IV.

Is the gauntlet too heavy?
Does the price cost too much?
Are you too young to care?
Too old and out of touch?

Is apathy seizing tightly your soul?
Minds once like razors, hearts now like coal.
Are your hands bound, is your mouth gagged?
Your voice is silenced now by those who once ragged

A mother, a friend, a girl you once knew
A singer, a poet, the kid you once threw
Maybe a priest or a neighbor or the lady next door
Maybe a teacher, or a salesman, who knows – its an even score
Now that you’ve given in
The Movement don’t want you no more!

IV, A.

Silence equals death:
hands on the belt,
arms of the law,
land of the warden,
rooms in the school,
whims of parents,
whims of politicians,
In the spirit of the forgotten it is time to quit.

V.

Goodnight you warriors: I did trade
My spirit for gold
A walk-on part for a lead role
Passion, desire, saliva for fun
Menial in order to be “The One”
I beg forgiveness as I bid adieu
All this was written just for you.

Goodnight and farewell.

VI.

Wrench to fingers
Pry nails
Pull hair
File teeth
Singe eyebrows
Tug rope
Jump slowly…
Land in a 9-to-5
Surrender to bills
To college
To possessions
Become possessed
Obsessed
With the latest “thing”
Glittery plastics
Impress partner
Become “hitched”
Surrender self-will
Get promoted
Buy, buy, buy
Buy, buy, bye
Bye, bye.
Don’t believe
Disbelieve
Deny
Restrict self
Possess others
Acquire children
Rule children
Children’s friends
Contribute to problem
Become problem
Children rise up
Become activists
Activating against…

Me?

by Adam Fletcher

Untitled

You only learn what your willing to
Forced schooling won’t teach you whats true
Propaganda is their game
Curriculum, your all the same
Learn what they say and do what they do
Obey all the rules and be quiet too
Welcome to segregated hell
You have no rights under their spell
Don’t speak your mind or read what you want
Listen to them they claim whos smart
Now you’ll be just like they wish
Conformity their special gift
Creativity is not your friend
Slavery to foolish trends
You think your diploma will save you now
Ignorance is all around
Now go to school another day
You’ll grow down their silly way
Jails for children hear the bells ring
Foolishness the numbing sting

by Andrew Ericson

In the place called Libertopia

One day I was crying
as a young man came by walking
“come with me to a land that’s free,
where you don’t need to be eighteen
to say cigarettes please
in the place called Libertopia”

In the place called Libertopia
the government assures a life free
it’s not an ageist regime
oppressing all my brothers and me

In the place called Libertopia
ageism is a crime
with a steeper penatly attached to it
than just a heavy fine

In the place called Libertopia
school exists to teach
not to subject the youth
to what the government wants to preach

In the place called Libertopia
you can make all your own money
you don’t have two monkeys on your back
saying “now stay in school honey”

In the place called Libertopia
in your own thoughts you may revel
and you don’t have conform
with the evil gray haired devils

In the place called Libertopia
you are judged by your soul and your mind
not on simply how far back
you can look behind

by Scott Davidson

img

OUR BLOG

img

Alex Jonlin – 20th Anniversary Reflection

As a ten-year-old kid in Seattle, I was already interested in politics. My friends and I marched around the playground protesting the Iraq War, and I...

BY Alex Jonlin
img

Scott Davidson – 20th Anniversary Reflection

Former board member (2003-2007) and president, Scott Davidson reflects on his time with NYRA and the people he got to know during his time being active...

BY Scott Davidson
img

Jackie Ferro – 20th Anniversary Reflection

I first got involved with NYRA in 2009, when I was in 8th grade. I had formed a small coalition with some fellow middle schoolers called...

BY Jackie Ferro
img

NYRA-Fairfax Secures Voting Age Endorsements

Thanks to the efforts of the newly formed Fairfax County NYRA chapter, the Fairfax County Democratic Party and grassroots organizations Virginia Democracy Forward and Virginia Civic...

BY Brian Conner
img

NYRA Mourns Passing of John Taylor Gatto

Renowned critic of compulsory schooling, John Taylor Gatto passed away this week at the age of 82.  A teacher for 30 years, he achieved notoriety after...

BY Alex Koroknay-Palicz
img

Stefan Muller – 20th Anniversary Reflection

I joined NYRA in 2003 after reading about it in a news article about the voting age. This wasn’t my first introduction to youth rights—I’ve believed...

BY Stefan Muller
img

NYRA Launches New Website!

After months of hard work by NYRA's team of volunteers, we are pleased to finally unveil our brand new look! With a new logo, a new...

BY NYRA
img

Bill introduced in U.S. House to lower the voting age to sixteen

Last week, U.S. Representative Grace Meng (D-NY) introduced a resolution proposing an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would lower the voting age to sixteen throughout...

BY NYRA
img

Over 70 people testify in favor of lowering the voting age in Washington D.C.

On Wednesday, NYRA members attended a public hearing before the Washington, D.C. City Council to support the Youth Vote Amendment Act of 2018. If passed, this...

BY NYRA
View More
img

Support the New YouthRights.org!

NYRA's current website was redesigned in 2011 and while it looked great for the time, it is now dated in both style and function. The current...

BY NYRA
img

Portland Student Rights Union joins NYRA to address Student Rights

Members of Portland Student Rights Union - A NYRA Chapter We originally started the Portland Student Rights Union (SRU) in October 2017 to protest the administration...

BY Portland Student Rights Union
img

Scott Davidson – 20th Anniversary Reflection

Former board member (2003-2007) and president, Scott Davidson reflects on his time with NYRA and the people he got to know during his time being active...

BY Scott Davidson
img

Schwarzenegger v Gamers – Help Us Fight Back

Arnold is trying to take away your games. Don't let him. California passed a law that would ban the sale of all "violent" video games to...

BY Alex Koroknay-Palicz
img

Activists in Massachusetts Make Progress in Lowering the Voting Age

In Massachusetts, two best friends made headway in the push to lower the voting age. Aaron Nelson and Max Carr passed articles in their hometowns of...

BY NYRA
img

Over 70 people testify in favor of lowering the voting age in Washington D.C.

On Wednesday, NYRA members attended a public hearing before the Washington, D.C. City Council to support the Youth Vote Amendment Act of 2018. If passed, this...

BY NYRA
img

Alex Jonlin – 20th Anniversary Reflection

As a ten-year-old kid in Seattle, I was already interested in politics. My friends and I marched around the playground protesting the Iraq War, and I...

BY Alex Jonlin
img

Speaking out against curfew laws in Fort Worth, TX

NYRA Chapter leader Bryce Hall spoke out against extending the juvenile curfew law in his home town of Fort Worth, Texas last Tuesday. He and other...

BY NYRA
img

Time Flies When You’re Having Fun, And Drags When You’re Young

When I talk to people about lowering the voting age to 16 or lowering the drinking age to 18 they often say “Why the rush? Two...

BY Alex Koroknay-Palicz
View More