In the past few weeks, many conversations have stemmed from the tragic George Floyd killing. Many people I know have talked about how they can get involved in social justice initiatives here in Portland. There are plenty of local opportunities. Additionally, there are some great options for youth that may want to act on their interests in social justice. The following suggestions are programs that invite teenagers to partake in social justice education and activities.
Don’t Shoot PDX
Don’t Shoot PDX is a local activism group that was formed in 2014 that focuses on dismantling discrimination, advocating for vulnerable youth and community members, and striving for equity in Portland (dontshootpdx, 2020). The services offered through this organization are plentiful. The website displays offerings such as community education workshops, a “community clothing tree” at three of their locations that offer free clothing, food, and toiletries to vulnerable community members, assistance with legal services, and generally being advocates for people in need of advice and assistance. There is a section of their website that relates to “Children’s art and social justice council.” Don’t Shoot PDX partnered with fellow community organizations to teach youth about community, organizing and creating and using art to promote social change. This section offers two links: 1) youth activism sign-up and 2) purchase art for social change. Here is the link.
ABI/All Born In-
All Born In is a program that was created to support community members who are affected by developmental disabilities. This program has a “Social Justice Youth Program” (abicommunity.org, 2020). Teens who are 15 or older can join if they can commit to a one-year membership. The program includes volunteering, meetings, seminars, meeting with social activists, and a weekend long “summer camp” at Portland State University. The goal is to work toward an inclusive environment for everyone. The program discusses many types of societal discrimination. Their main mission is to strive toward an inclusive environment for all Oregonians. If you have a youth who is interested in joining you can 1) email: SJYP@abicommunity.org or 2) call: (503) 238-0522.
Portland Playhouse – Social Justice Theater Project
Since 2016, the Portland Playhouse has collaborated with local high schools to provide “social justice theater projects” (portlandplayhouse.org, 2020). Schools that participate in this project assemble research and ideas to create performances that discuss issues within their society. The goal of this project is for students to discuss societal happenings and display their thoughts through a performance in which they interact with their audience. The SJCP happens in the Spring and is available to high school students. Educators who are interested in taking part of this program are encouraged to contact Portland Playhouse via phone: (503) 488-5822.
The Center Youth Collective-
This is a program that has several organizations intertwined: Black United Fund of Oregon, Catlin Gabel School, De La Salle North Catholic School, Kairos PDX, Latino Network, and the Urban League of Portland (thecenterpdx.org, 2020). The aim of this program is for young people to empower other young people, especially those who are disadvantaged. The program offers after-school programs, summer programs, and “power to the youth events.” Within each type of program there are a variety of workshops, events, and classes. Activities included in the subsets of programs include tutoring, mentorship, professional development, female empowerment, etc. Some opportunities provide school credits and lead to career opportunities. If you have a youth interested in joining, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
These organizations provide a safe, structured place for youth to learn about social justice. Not only are kids educated about it, but they are provided venues to begin participating in acts of social justice.
Taking actions such as volunteering, mentoring, or spreading important information to others can help teenagers to develop a sense of community and empathy toward underadvantaged members in society. Learning about discrimination may motivate teens to help others in their community, and even beyond their community.
These social justice groups aim to advocate for others and educate people about discrimination and inequity. If your family has a teenager who is interested in social justice, these groups may provide them with a great outlet for learning and participating in serving their community.