The Generation That Will Change the World
A fifteen year old African American student from Compton, Antoinne, stood up in the middle of a FYI FILMS screenwriting lesson and blurted out,
"Hey Munoz. You know why they don't care about us? Because we are expendable - that's why."
"Can you explain to us what you mean by that?" I asked him.
"Look, I gotta work to help my family survive. So I ain't gonna graduate from high school cuz my family can't get by without the money I make from my part time job. I ain't gonna pass the SAT, and I ain't going to college. And if I don't go to college I won't get a good job, and if I don't get a good job, then I won't be paying Uncle Sam a lot of taxes, and I won't become a so-called good American consumer. Therefore I am expendable."
We all sank in our chairs.
I was stung by his hyper-loaded statement. I asked the other 15 students if they, too, felt expendable. They all nodded their heads in agreement. I cancelled the screenwriting lesson to address this sense of feeling expendable. We did improvs exploring marginalization and oppression. The improvs were laced with deflated dreams, pessimism about the future, and economic lethargy.
"How do we change this feeling of being expendable?" I asked my students.
We had a 90 minute discussion about creating a better environment for youth from disadvantaged communities. A healthy environment which would help them escape these intense feelings of expandability and marginalization. They made some interesting and radical suggestions such as: Creating public policy which restricts the hours that single mothers work. They found it unacceptable for a single mom to work more than 40 hours a week. They also wanted a limit on how many hours high school students work. Free day care for infants and toddlers at the schools where their older siblings went. When given the chance, our students come up with some radical solutions.
As we prepare for our next FYI FILMS workshop in LA COUNTY, I force myself to do an audio recall of Antoinne's statement. We try to organize exercises and activities to reverse this type of thinking. Antoinne's statement, is what keeps me motivated. These youth are part of the Seventh Generation. The Generation that will change the world. I believe they will.