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We Fight To Win

We Fight To Win: Inequality and the Politics of Youth Activism

Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    We Fight To Win
    Book Description:

    In an adult-dominated society, teenagers are often shut out of participation in politics.We Fight to Winoffers a compelling account of young people's attempts to get involved in community politics, and documents the battles waged to form youth movements and create social change in schools and neighborhoods.Hava Rachel Gordon compares the struggles and successes of two very different youth movements: a mostly white, middle-class youth activist network in Portland, Oregon, and a working-class network of minority youth in Oakland, California. She examines how these young activists navigate schools, families, community organizations, and the mainstream media, and employ a variety of strategies to make their voices heard on some of today's most pressing issuesùwar, school funding, the environmental crisis, the prison industrial complex, standardized testing, corporate accountability, and educational reform.We Fight to Winis one of the first books to focus on adolescence and political action and deftly explore the ways that the politics of youth activism are structured by age inequality as well as race, class, and gender.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-4827-2
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-17)

    In February of 2003, mainstream media outlets covered the massive and simultaneous antiwar protests that shook hundreds of cities across the world. Activists from almost every corner of the earth marched in the streets, numbering in the millions, to protest the impending invasion of Iraq. Although the sixties are often identified as an apex of political activism, the 2003 marches made history in terms of the sheer numbers of people participating in the antiwar demonstrations. If the news cameras were to zoom in on the crowds and were to look beyond the spectacle of people’s collective outrage spilling into the...

  5. 1 The Development of Urban Teenage Activism: Opportunities and Challenges at the Turn of the Millennium
    (pp. 18-59)

    One day, sixteen-year-old YP student organizer Salvador and I roamed around East Oakland on city bus after city bus, trying to find local restaurants that might be willing to donate food to Youth Power. That day, Salvador told me this story of his lone attempt to access the highest executive power in the United States:

    I wrote a letter to the president, and he sent me an autographed picture. Like, I talked to him about all the issues around my neighborhood and stuff, like drug dealing and violence. And he sent me a response saying, “Well, here’s the information you...

  6. 2 Reading, Writing, and Radicalism: The Politics of Youth Activism on School Grounds
    (pp. 60-97)

    What happens when youth try to tackle social justice issues and organize other students on school territory? Before SRU and YP youth activists eventually coalesced with larger social movements in their communities, they first attempted to politicize the social and academic elements of their schools. Just as labor activists start organizing in their workplaces, youth begin their political projects where they are: in their schools. Student activists recounted to me their frustrating experiences with school clubs, student government, curriculums, and all the other activities that constitute the social and educational life of high schools. As I listened to their stories,...

  7. 3 Allies Within and Without: Navigating the Terrain of Adult-Dominated Community Politics
    (pp. 98-132)

    When students begin to organize beyond their schools and in their larger communities, they struggle to find their place in local social movements. In doing so, they reflect on their unique position as youth in adult-dominated community politics and develop politicized frameworks for understanding ageism. Both YP and SRU organized outside of schools because, first and foremost, that’s where young people could mobilize as a larger base. Of the many barriers to youth political participation inside of the school system examined in the previous chapter, the biggest barrier is that there exists no mechanism that can sustain the organization of...

  8. 4 Toward Youth Political Power in Oakland: The Adult Gaze, Academic Achievement, and the Struggle for Political Legitimacy
    (pp. 133-154)

    I am attending a YP weekend retreat in a large, log cabin in the woods about seventy miles outside of Oakland. We have been driving in vans for hours just to get here, crisscrossing freeways and negotiating the tangled mess of stop-and-go traffic rushing in and out of the Bay Area. Finally, the cityscapes give way to rolling hills, and we arrive. The students are giddy with excitement to be in the woods. They hardly ever get the chance to breathe clean air and stick their feet in an ice-cold river on a summer day. They hardly ever get the...

  9. 5 Toward Youth Political Power in Portland: The Adult Gaze, Mainstream Media, and the Problems of Social Visibility
    (pp. 155-175)

    Scott: I definitely feel freedom being under the age of eighteen. Like, being under the age of eighteen you’re exempt from a lot of things. You know what I mean? Like, in two months I could get in big trouble for something that I’d be just, like, fined for now, you know what I mean? I know it sounds bad but it’s totally true. Like there’s another article about impressionable teenagers, or whatever, like it’s …

    Stephen: Not necessarily impressionable teenagers, but teenagers that are willing to do something. Because nothing will happen to them!

    Scott: Teenagers do have special...

  10. 6 Gendering Political Power: Gender Politics in Youth Activist Networks
    (pp. 176-198)

    By the early summer of 2003, the SRU network had begun to fracture because of internal struggles over how to project the groups’ aims, identity, and political visions to multiple adult publics. This struggle was due in large part to these young activists’ overreliance on mainstream media, whose contours refused to recognize their political outrage or their critique of U.S. foreign policy as anything but pathological and corrupted. After the early street protests in Portland and the “incident on the bridge” during the tumultuous Day of Bombing, SRU activists found themselves split between two sides of a seemingly irreconcilable dilemma:...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 199-212)

    In the two years I spent with YP and SRU activists, I witnessed their challenges, successes, and defeats. Anchored in larger historical and contemporary movements, YP organizers in Oakland fundamentally changed their school landscapes: at some schools they successfully instituted youth centers that provided a proyouth, empowering respite from their defeating experiences of schooling. They created student committees to meet with their school administrators over curriculum design and organized multiracial unity days that emphasized racial alliances: radically altering their schools’ depoliticized and divided multicultural celebrations of diversity. They protested the California High School Exit Exam and were instrumental in winning...

    (pp. 213-224)
  13. NOTES
    (pp. 225-234)
    (pp. 235-244)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 245-254)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 255-256)