Memphis Youth Manifesto (MYM) Speaks Out
On a brisk, busy Friday evening, members of the Memphis Youth Manifesto movement walked the protest line on the corner of Poplar and Union Extended. Their purpose was to highlight the misinformed images of the youth of Memphis in the media. After weeks of research on Memphis Media, newspaper and television, the group assessed which outlets used their sixty minutes of prime time presence to highlight something good about Memphis youth, and which outlets only presented a negative image of Memphis youth, to the rest of the world. All the outlets spent some portion of their newshour focused on youth crime; however, it is primarily black-on-black crime that comes across the airwaves.
In the tradition of peaceful protest by the affected against that which keeps them bound, the youth took to the streets, with their hand-made signs of indignation, shouting I AM Not A Thug, I AM Newsworthy. They marched in the twilight of dusk, resounding loudly and reminding us of another time in Memphis History. Men, black men, stood with them, symbolically dressed in black suits, white shirts, and black ties. They marched for what they believe in, for a hopeful future that doesn’t look like today. The Memphis Youth Manifesto members stood on the principles they created, and demanded positive images of Memphis Youth, cried out for support from the city they live in and love. Asking themselves, is this too much to ask, to expect from our city? As one, they shouted No, it is as it should be.
In the November issue of the Downtowner Magazine, the author writes, “A single bullet brought Memphis to its knees in 1968, with the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memphis and may other cities found themselves in turmoil and distress. But out of that tragic event, an idea bloomed for healing and putting the pieces back together again” (Downtowner, Nov. 2009, p.10). The author was speaking of the birth of the Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association, MIFA. Well, the same can be said of the birth of the Memphis Youth Manifesto. Out of a lifetime of combating the fear and condemnation of the youth in Memphis, this group formed to take a stand, to present a different image to the world of Memphis. Their goal is to fight against the reputation of Memphis from cop shows, murder rates, infant mortality statistics, and all the other “firsts” our city has earned, for all the wrong reasons.
We marched with them, handed out flyers to passersby, answered questions from the curious, and assured the nervous that the protest was a good thing, that these youth want only what is best from our city. Many pledged to visit the website, get informed about the movement, to encourage the young people in their households to become involved. We ask the city of Memphis to join these citizens in their quest to know more about the Memphis Youth Manifesto, to support our youth as they work to make a difference in our city. Something is happening in Memphis, will it happen with, or without You?
Specificity of Though, Changing The City For All. by Brittney Ray
Students did their homework in preparation for the opportunity to be heard. Some approached one of 4 microphones with thoughts written on note cards handed out at the start of the forum. Other youth spoke from the heart. Regardless of the delivery, they left no room for questions concerning their sincerity. Defying the expectations of false issues being discussed, the students spoke on issues that directly affected them in the past, present and future. Coined with the title Memphis Youth Manifesto Town Hall meeting, youth from all over Memphis Tennessee were invited out to voice their concerns and solutions to the problems they’ve seen in the city of Memphis and its school system.
Arrows, a term used to describe youth from all over Memphis ranging from infants to young adults, can best be defined through a simile using Psalm 127:4. “As arrows are in the hands of a mighty man, so are children of the youth.” This verse, says that children in the hand of an archer who makes positive decisions and stands accountable for their actions are capable of striking their target. The trajectory of Memphis youth is to strike the heart of the enemy of our city. The enemy here is anyone who does not want to see the youth succeed or help Memphis to actualize its potentiality. It’s up to the bows, also known as the parents, elected officials, pastors and all other adults in authority to help the youth of Memphis to continue down a positive path and keep what was started at the town hall meeting alive.
While maintaining a respectful tone, arrows from ages 6-26 voiced the issues that have made Memphis City Schools a fun as well as challenging environment to learn in. The youth also discussed the city of Memphis and changes they would like to see made as steps towards improvement are taken. Many younger students spoke about the possible closing of minority clubs at their school and the affects these cuts would have on their high school careers. They demonstrated their passion for each topic as it was well thought and articulated. Other students spoke about situations they have noticed inside the school system and these thoughts ranged from topics about administration to gangs. The arrow’s participation in the manifesto movement showed clearly their love and concern for the city of Memphis and its future endeavors.
Current college students as well as post college students who attended the meeting spoke about the lack of positive avenues that Memphis offers. Many said that Memphis presents nothing recreational for them to do when they return home from school for the summer. The college students are interested in seeing more adult friendly places to visit besides clubs and bars. They suggested ideas that involved mentoring younger children and more job opportunities.
The youth of Memphis really stepped up to the plate by their attendance and honesty at the town hall meeting. They embarked upon the first step to what is the second biggest movement this country has ever seen next to the civil rights movement. The town hall meeting though, was only the first step of many.
ManifestoA Manifesto is a public written declaration of principles, policies, and objectives, especially one issued by a political movement.