Blog & video recap – Youth Mayoral Summit
Written by Tina Maddox on April 13, 2015
Approximately 10 youth congregate at the bottom of the stairs as they wait to receive instructions before proceeding into the Venice Island Performing Arts & Recreation Center for the Youth Mayoral Summit. As they walk into the auditorium, posters of the mayoral candidates align the walls in stadium seating fashion, disappearing as the youth enter into the auditorium that is beginning to fill to capacity. As more youth flood in, sound checks, introductions and the bustling of individuals completing the final debate preparations heightens the importance and intensity of the day’s events. Educational and popular questions ranging from, “how many Super Bowls have the Eagles won to “how many amendments does the constitution have” are displayed from a projection screen, entertaining the audience members while they wait for the event to begin.
As the room fills to capacity with children, young adults, parents, friends, volunteers and community leaders, the importance of the event intensifies. The sense of responsibility the youth have is reiterated by the day’s entertainment/musical guest whose songs highlight important social and civic issues facing their generation, their responsibilities and the responsibility of their community and its leaders; issues the youth would later ask the mayoral candidates to address.
Before the Q&A and election begin, the participants have the opportunity to work in 13 groups consisting of 7-10 children and young adults. Seated underneath a large tent, they are granted the opportunity to learn about and discuss voting, the government, their career aspirations, influential persons who partook in politics and civic engagement and their own ability to bring about change. As the session continues, representatives from different organizations migrate and listen. Feeding off of the group’s energy and excitement, these representatives begin discussing with each other the various topics of conversations coming from the participants.
The group’s discussions result in questions they want the mayoral candidates to address. There was a strong wherewithal coming from the youth that they had influence and would be taken seriously, a sentiment they expressed by the confidence they exhibited when addressing the mayoral candidates with questions ranging from, but not limited to, minimum wage, stop and frisk practices, improving the public school curriculum and jobs for the homeless.
The six mayoral candidates — Lynne A. Abraham, Melissa Murray Bailey, James Kenney, Doug Oliver, Milton Street and Sen. Anthony H. Williams — addressed the issues as if they were at a televised debate while taking a moment to remember the event was a teaching forum for our youth. As the candidates answered the participant’s questions, chattering in response to their answers could be heard throughout the room. Rumblings indicative of their satisfaction, or lack thereof, with the candidate’s response filled the room as well, and there was a strong desire to advertise the event and its importance via word of mouth and social media. The youths who were not yet able to vote due to their age were reminded they can still make a difference by voting for their mayoral pick, and informing the adults in their lives who they would elect as their mayor, thus granting them the opportunity to influence the Mayoral election.