The seventh chapter of Media and Social Justice, Lora Taub-Pervizpour and Eirinn Disbrow’s “Detours through Youth-Driven Media: Backseat Drivers Bear Witness to the Ethical Dilemmas of Youth Media,” highlights youth and their interaction with social justice-orientated media usage. They follow a program called the Healthy Youth Peer Education (HYPE) in the Allentown School District in Pennsylvania, which “offers high school-age youth opportunities to engage in social change and public advocacy through leadership development, digital storytelling, the performing arts, and documentary work” (98).
Although I hadn’t heard of HYPE before reading this chapter, this piece really piqued my interest; not only is Allentown only about a half hour away from Kutztown, but last spring I volunteered to help one of the Allentown School District’s middle schools with their school musical, so reading about an environment and students that were somewhat familiar to me really helped put this chapter into context. Also, based on the students that I worked on the musical with, I think that HYPE is something that is a really great program to have been introduced to the community; it’s giving students a way to produce “stories that document sufferings, losses, and traumas based on class, race, gender, ethnicity, and sexuality that they directly experience or witness within their communities” (98).
Taub-Pervizpour and Disbrow’s attention and dedication to the youth of Allentown is extremely important; the youth is the future. We (millennials and those who are younger than us) are given a bad rap, especially when it comes to our social media and cell phone usage. But, much to our critics’ dismay, social media can be used for good!!! It’s a means for social activism and social justice, and the HYPE program highlights that and assists students to harness the power of the media.
I see the engagement of today’s youth all over social media, specifically on Twitter and Facebook, much more now than when I was in middle school or even high school. I see young people voicing educated opinions on touchy subjects, proudly labeling themselves as feminists (something I didn’t even do until I was in college), and voluntarily getting involved in politics. I saw so many students under 18 showing interest in the past election and voluntarily watching debates and educating themselves on many of the issues at hand – and they couldn’t even vote!!
This kind of involvement that I see across social media gives me a lot of hope for the future. I believe that we, as individuals who grew up with technology and have watched it develop, will further harness social media and continue to use them as, as Taub-Pervizpour and Disbrow put it, “powerful tools of change” (97).