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The Tavis Smiley Foundation gave the youth of our community a chance to be heard as part of the Tenth Anniversary of the State of the Black Union at the Young Scholars Forum, which was held at USC, in association with USC Annenberg's Johnson Communication Leadership Center and the Center on Communication Leadership & Policy.
The panel, which consisted of Princeton University professor Eddie Glaude, USC Annenberg communication professor Josh Kun, U.S. Naval officer Jocelyn Butcher, Voto Latino executive director Maria Teresa Petersen, the world's youngest university professor Dr. Alia Sabur, actress Jurnee Smollett, and author and Brown University professor Tricia Rose, addressed topics and issues that were of great importance to the youth of this country.
The panel highlighted numerous young individuals and youth groups that have already stepped up into leadership roles, and pointed out that new technology is a big reason why teenagers and young adults can really make a different today.
Websites such as Facebook, Myspace, and a few others, have allowed youth to communicate in large numbers, and many groups that do community service and protest against hot button issues have emerged. It is easy for high school and college kids to promote events to each other.
The panel also highlighted the election of President Barack Obama. A record number of young adults showed up at the polls. There was a strong movement by youths to jump on the Obama bandwagon, and their vote really made a difference.
Actress Jurnee Smollett, who received critical acclaim for her title role in the drama Eve's Bayou (1997), pointed out that there are many youth groups that are making a difference in our community, but many of them are not getting the attention that they deserve. She pointed out that when a young Black person commits a crime it is all over the news. But if a young Black person performs a community service, such as participating in a program that helps other teenagers attend school so they can graduate from high school, it goes unnoticed.
Teenagers and young adults have many opportunities to be in leadership, and to have their voice heard. Their voices are as strong as ever, and with more and more of them getting into leadership, they will be able to make a much bigger difference in the future.
Dr. Maria Teresa said that many young adults and teenagers do not realize that that can make a difference now, and that many of them may not think that they can. But she points out that through hard work and determination they can step into roles that are normally reserved for older and more experienced individuals.
Audience members were able to pose questions to the panel, and not surprisingly, many of the questions showed that the college and high school students in attendance are well aware of the major issues that this country is going through.