Leadership is a lifestyle, not a position.
A couple weeks ago, during a massive rally in front of the School District of Philadelphia, I stood in amazement as I watched black and brown youth threaten to shut down the event unless their voices were acknowledged.
This phenomenon of self-amplified youth voices aggressively inserting itself into conversations of social justice, which really took shape after the death of Trayvon Martin, is a growing trend bought on by the world’s big problems, the huge disconnect between generations and the massive egos of elitist civil rights leaders who refuse to pass the torch – or the microphone – out of fear that their livelihoods will be jeopardized.
The biggest difference between the new wave of young, black and brown, self-organized leaders and those who are struggling to maintain relevance and their seat at the table with legacy organizations, is the way in which leadership is perceived, distributed and honored.
For the teens and millennials that are, as Ebony.com put it: “willing to risk life and limb for the project of freedom,” leadership is a lifestyle, not a position intended to pave the road to political prominence.
And though most of the individuals who make up this new generation of social change agents aren’t yet interested in obtaining an elected office, they’re surely influencing policy – from BB guns guns and climate change to voter suppression and stand-your-grounds laws.
Youth voices are vital to the health and longevity of our democracy. And beyond their voices, youthful ideas bring color and energy to otherwise dull and boring activities. I love to have fun and unearth new voices. So when I started Techbook Online in 2009, I pledged to always, when applicable, place young people on center stage, even at the expense of my own air/mic time.
I understood that my role as a leader wasn’t to lead others to a particular place or ideology, but to empower individuals to lead people who I couldn’t reach to places I couldn’t go.
How I build, inform and engage communities is with a horizontal mindset: we’re all leaders with various experiences, different audiences and independent modes of thinking which, together, can enable a cognitive surplus that can solve the world’s toughest problems.
Indeed, a new day has arrived and new faces, voices and causes are emerging all the time. So my recommendation to the elder-elites is this: harness the youth voices you encounter, inject your wisdom, share your platform and understand that this thing called leadership is less about the “leader” and more about the “ship” that needs to carry us all to a better world.
Thanks for reading. Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® & I’m Drumming for JUSTICE!™