2009 marks the eighth year of Freechild Project’s existence. During these years I have witnessed an explosion in the youth activism world, with more than a dozen organizations emerging to say, “We believe in young people changing the world!” The old dogs that were around before Freechild have widened their analysis to include more examples of youth changing the world than ever before. The new ones have much better websites than Freechild, running web 2.0 platforms that make me salivate. So in the face of these developments, does Freechild still matter? I think so, and this is why.
In the most simplistic ways, Freechild matters because we address both children and youth. We address both young people of color and white kids; wealthy and poor; people with fast Internet access and those without; activists and allies; knowledge and power. Those are the simplistic ways- but as always, there is a much deeper reason.
One of the most important possibilities of any of this work is the deepened understanding of children and youth about the world around them. That’s both in terms of learning about the power they have to change that world as well as the general skills and knowledge they need to succeed throughout life.
I believe there has been a radical disenfranchisement in the roles of young people throughout the history of Western society, and particularly since the Victorian era. Today that disenfranchisement is spun to such an extreme that we (adults) label it “apathy”, and use it like a powerful double-edged sword against young people: “Youth today are so apathetic!” This is adultism as in its core form. I think it is important that children and youth come to understand that reality as they determine for themselves they are ready. I wasn’t ready to understand it for a long time, and when I did come to know it I actually didn’t want to understand it. It was too much, too different from what I already thought I knew, and as such it was offensive to my sensibilities, per se. And I know its offensive to many adults, as well as young people.
The Freechild Project was created with the intention of providing young people with the access they need to learn a more “true” story about their roles. It was intended to share with young people and their adult allies that yes, indeed, young people do have or can learn the knowledge, skills, energy, ideas, wisdom and capacity to change the world. This is more than just marching in the streets or waving picket signs, as some people idolized the 1960s and 70s to have been about. Instead it is learning about young people can, should, and must actually become infused and integrated throughout society in order to affect their voices into the world around them. Anywhere. All the time. Any topic. Any society.
And that is the core notion behind the Freechild website: give young people unfettered access to knowledge and then allow them to interpret that however they want. The workshops I provide under The Freechild Project banner build upon that in order to reinforce that idea. That makes it my responsibility to craft a clear message about radical democracy and social change that is honest to the concept and not disingenuous to the actors I take inspiration from: Paulo Freire, Martin Luther King, Jr., George Counts, Myles Horton, bell hooks, Henry Giroux, and many, many others.
There is no less purpose than that. Sometimes I’m afraid people might see my conception as too high-minded; its not. This work begins in the streets, and comes to the classroom much, much later.