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Seen & Heard

A hallmark of coming of age is realizing you are old enough to discuss, and be generally involved in, “grown folks business.” For years we have gone through life knowing of adulthood only through whispers. The kids table is at once our designated seating section at family events, and a metaphor for how our power is engaged with. The ideas of young people are routinely cast off by elders--dismissed for being too big, to underdeveloped, too naive. This viewpoint both stifles our ability to play active roles in our communities, but is contrary to history. Sit-ins, Freedom Rides, the Children’s March, seminal acts that pushed our nation closer towards equity, were spearheaded by young folks. The view from the kids table may be lower than that of the adult’s, but the seats are not in a separate setting. Issues of access and equity do not exist independent of us, and it is because of this our voting power must be mobilized. As Durham continues it's process of "economic revitalization," the impacts of gentrification on marginalized communities becomes increasingly apparent. Issues surrounding food apartheid, equitable economic growth, and job placement have pushed community leaders to reframe how our city and county engage with our newfound trendiness. Democracy NC reports that Youth voting in Durham County has been on an incline, with the turnout rate in 2018's general election (36.1%), being over 15% higher than the 2014 rate. The impact of the youth vote is particularly powerful in local elections, which typically feature lower turnout, and tighter races. Our upcoming election offers us an opportunity to mobilize and guide the actions our elected officials take in shaping Durham's future. Young people know what young people need. There is no better advocate FOR US, THAN US. This principle guides the need for youth involvement in our political process. So often decisions that directly impact our lives are made by those who know nothing of what we need. Our lived experiences inform how we move through the world, and come with us when we enter ballot booths. Voting is a tool in our larger box to affect change within our communities. The places we live, the people we love, the spaces we hold, are always deserving of better.

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