Young People Are Moving To The Political Forefront

On May 14, I was arrested for refusing to disperse alongside clergy, neighbors, and friends while marching with The Poor People’s Campaign in Montgomery, Alabama. Beside me, the whole time was Annie Pearl Avery, who was arrested while working with SNCC in 1963, who was at the bridge in Selma in 1965, and who used her walker to march half a mile down Dexter Avenue on a sweltering day in 2018.

As a proud alumnus of Vote Everywhere at The University of Alabama, and as one of the inaugural Puffin Democracy Fellows at the Andrew Goodman Foundation, I have a deep conviction in the power of voting. But I have also learned that confronting injustice demands more of us than trips to the ballot box alone—a lesson alive in the memory of Freedom Summer 1964 and in the presence of Ms. Avery’s uninterrupted, unstoppable march. In this season of historic inequality and empowered hatred, that is why I am voting and marching with the Poor People’s Campaign.

Here in Alabama, we march because voting rights have been made weaker today than they were in 1965, due in no small part to racist plaintiffs up in Shelby County. We march because Alabama continues to condemn its residents to discomfort and illness and death by refusing to expand Medicaid. We march because our own Jeff Sessions endangers the lives of our black, brown, immigrant, Muslim, and LGBTQ neighbors. We march because many of the missiles launched into Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Palestine were manufactured at the Lockheed plant down in Troy. We march because the state of Alabama refuses to remedy the raw sewage lagoons causing rare sub-tropical disease outbreaks in Uniontown, Lowndes County, and across the Black Belt, even after a delegation from the United Nations described living conditions in these rural communities as the worst poverty in the developed world. We march because workers are denied a living wage in Alabama by rich, white legislators in Montgomery. We march because this place is the epicenter of so many deeply interconnected harms, both historically and in the present. We march because that does not have to be our future. 

We are currently in the midst of the Campaign’s National 40 Days of Action, and thousands of people around the country are joining together to bear witness against the normalized evils of poverty, systemic racism, the war economy, and ecological devastation. The idea that things have to be this way is a myth, and as young people facing a world on the brink, our futures depend upon our ability to join with one another, to imagine a world where all people are cared for and valued above profit, and to relentlessly take action to forge that world into being. That’s exactly what The Andrew Goodman Foundation is training us to do.

Young people are moving to the political forefront once again. We’ve got daunting work ahead of us, but we’ve got powerful legacies to draw from behind us, and we won’t be silent anymore.

About the Author

Dana Sweeney served as The Andrew Goodman Foundation’s first Vote Everywhere Ambassador at The University of Alabama and is so excited to continue growing with The AGF as a Puffin Democracy Fellow. He cannot wait to bring new training, resources, and insights to his work in the Deep South. Dana works as the statewide organizer for the Alabama Appleseed Center for Law & Justice.