Our histories can be as important as our actions when we’re trying to change the world in any way, because they drive so much of what we do.
Like most folks, my own motivation has a lot of roots. Many of them stem from experiencing childhood homelessness; others from youth activism and community organizing I led when I was a teen; others from being blatantly discriminated against because of my age; other roots come from growing up a poor white kid with a goofy Canadian accent living illegally in a working class African American neighborhood in the middle of the US.
Here’s one distinct root: When I was 14, I was attending a magnet high school in my city. It drew in middle and upper class white kids from a predominately middle class area to attend a computer/science program, while I was living in the predominately African American, low-income and working class neighborhood where the school was located. All the neighborhood students- me included- were mostly in remedial programs.
That year was the 20th anniversary of Earth Day, and I’d become inspired to do something, so I wanted to join the Environmental Club. I was turned away though, informed that only honors students could participate. I went on a guerrilla activism campaign with friends to start an alternative, which after we couldn’t a teacher to sponsor, we led on our own. We were dumpster diving for pop cans, building 6′ x 6′ cardboard Earth Day cards for our principal, and spray painting all over the outside of the building with pro-Earth slogans throughout the rest of high school, mostly in protest, sometimes in angst, all without a caring or concerned adult on our side. Still to this day, that motivates a lot of my work.
I have a dozen of these stories from that age, along with other stories that don’t get their own public space yet. But yeah, this is one. Here’s a few more:
- “Inconvenient” youth voice
- “That Kid” revisited
- Engaged through hip hop
- My youth council days
- Growing up as a free child
- Growing seeds through Youngtime
I have also been interviewed a few times that included my history.
This is a little bit of my history; tell me a little bit of yours.