Oct. 20, 2020 11:47 am

These Gen Z media-makers are ready and willing to claim a seat at the table

Civic engagement, social justice and political activism animate the videos that were recently showcased at 'Youthocracy.'

Teen members of Vote That Jawn in a still from the film "This Choice is Our Voice."

(Photo courtesy of Big Picture Alliance)

Updated to add links to the Youthocracy film screening. (10/21/20 at 7 p.m.)
“Show us as we are with intention,” PhillyCAM youth leader Zora Ball said last Friday at Youth Set the Stage‘s “Youthocracy” virtual screening.

The October 16 screening featured youth-made videos about voting and civic engagement. Starting at 6 p.m., viewers logged on Crowdcast to a soundtrack of Public Enemy‘s “Fight the Power.”

Youth Set the Stage is a collaboration of nine Philadelphia-based organizations: Big Picture Alliance (BPA), Girls Rock Philly, Temple University‘s Klein College of Media and Communications, Lil Filmmakers, Philadelphia Student Union, PhillyCAM Youth Media, POPPYN, Scribe Video Center, and WHYY Education.

Aleks Martray, 38, the executive director of Big Picture Alliance, says that it was important for BPA to be a part of the screening because they wanted to connect media resources to youth-led initiatives working on social justice and political activism.

“Elections happen on one day a year often, and it’s not the end-all, be-all. I think the idea behind ‘Youthocracy’ is like that. Young people should have a seat at the table, not just during elections, but beyond elections,” Martray said.

City Commissioner Omar Sabir spoke to viewers during the post-screening discussion on Zoom. Sabir discussed his role as commissioner and told viewers that Philadelphia is a safe place to vote.

“We have to bring young people…We have to focus on policies and not personalities,” Sabir said during the discussion.

Voting amongst millennials in Philadelphia is surging, according to the City Commissioner’s office. In the November 2018 election, voter turnout for ages 18-34 increased by 111%. The City started the youth-led First Vote 2020 in 2019 to create early engagement of Generation Z voters.

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But according to the following Youth Set the Stage youth-led panel, this is not enough to get young people to vote.

Naysa Jenkins, 23, a member of BPA’s Vialux Media Collective and discussion panelist, says that she hopes that the event helps younger people talk about voting with their friends.

“Even though sometimes it feels like your voice does not matter when you vote. It gives you an opportunity to say ‘this is where I live, and I want to be able to live this way in my city or my township,'” Jenkins said.

Still from the film “This Choice is Our Voice.” (Photo courtesy of BPA)

BPA’s film, “This Choice is Our Voice,” was one of five movies shown during the screening. The film highlights the on the ground and social media canvassing efforts of teen members from Vote That Jawn.

POPPYN’s “Breakin’ it Down: Voter Suppression” segment focused on tactics used to create barriers at the polling place. According to Demand the Vote, voter suppression is an effort that uses the law to prevent eligible voters from being able to vote. Voter suppression typically targets communities like voters of color, low-income voters, and elderly voters.

Other films included WHYY Education’s “Youth Perspectives on the Election, Democracy & Political Participation,” PhillyCAM and Girls Rock Philly’s “Liberation Mixtape,” and Philadelphia Student Union’s “Politics in Philadelphia: Why Your Vote Matters.”

For the young leaders, the word “Youthocracy” is a two-prong call-to-action.

One part is encouraging Philly youth to participate in civic engagement beyond this upcoming election. The other part is letting policymakers know that they are ready to hold those in power accountable.

Teen members of Vote That Jawn registering voters. (Photo courtesy of BPA)

“This generation is more proactive than mine ever was. I really want older people and adults to see that. If adults have a misrepresentation of young people, I hope when they see this, that they change,” Martray said.

“Youthocracy” (watch it here) is one screening in a series of upcoming virtual screenings by Youth Set the Stage. Independence Public Media Foundation supports the collaborative.


Voting registration ended on Oct. 19, but voters can still request mail-in ballots by Oct. 27 at PA Voter Services.


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