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Youth Politics: Minority Student Engagement Increases

Gerry Lauzon/Flickr

( Editor's note: The poem “Black Lives Matter” contains some offensive language. ) 

Political activism has blown up since the 2016 presidential election.

The Women’s March drew record numbers across the nation, the March for Science will soon take place, and citizens across the country are running for local offices and getting involved.

The same goes for Nevada, even the K-12 level.

Reuben D’Silva is a teacher at Rancho High School and says his students — most of whom are minorities — are more engaged than ever.

“Since November 9 you can see a big spike in political activism big time,” he told KNPR's State of Nevada. “The election of Donald Trump brought about a sense of awareness to the campus.”

D'Silva said there was a lot less engagement by students when he first started teaching five years ago. Although most of his students can't vote yet, he said they get involved by learning about the political process and issues important to them.

Shaniece Hicks is the vice president of the Rancho High School Black Student Union. She said she became interested in politics long before the 2016 election. Hicks said a "fire was lit" under her after Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager, was killed in 2014.

Hicks organized a Black Lives Matter rally last fall. She was surprised not just by the number and variety of people who wanted to be a part of it, but also by the number of people of color who disagreed with the movement.

"It made me see that there so many different ideas," Hicks said.

Derek Washington works to empower young people like Hicks. He is the chair of the Black Democratic Empowerment Project, which has a junior chapter. He invited Hicks to join BDEP's board so the organization could hear from a young person rather than speculate about what young people are thinking.

“Why don’t you just get a millennial and let them tell you what they want, and let them tell you what they think, and then empower them and support them,” he said.

He said too often adults "step on" people and talk at young people, instead of listening to them.

Hicks agreed.

“The youth is always being silenced. Our voice is just as important as the adults and everyone else around us. We have an opinion. We have a viewpoint, too,” she said.

Black Lives Matter by Shaniece Hicks

See you don't wanna be black
when everything ain't alright
You steal our culture, our music,our style, our life
Hea, All lives matter, that's what you start saying
But how is that possible?
If our blood we lay in
and in these streets they murder us
in front of our children, where they're playin
Little Tamir rice didn't even get to see his 13th birthday
Shot by a cop, he killed him, yea they taking us out the worse way
These cops don't even care about you or I
Can't go one day without hearing about how somebody's black child just died
When I say BlackLivesMatter
I'm not sayin’ yours don't too
But we know yours do
We still marching in these streets for justice
Isn't that what MLK got convicted of in 1962?
No more asking anymore, cause look where that got us.
We demand our equality.
No justice, No peace
They haven't given my people what we deserve, so we fillin’ these streets.
Now come again, tell me about how you one of the niggas too.
Cause I could've sworn just a second ago you was sayin nigga this, nigga that, nigga who?
Now tell me this when you have a gun pointed at your temple, by a crooked cop with a smirk,
you still black, are you willing to get blown at the mental?
I didn't think so.
You see we more than them corn rows, the rhythm and the flow, with this package comes a
target stamped to our back, and soon we hit the floor
But see nah y'all don't wanna roll when things get low
All of a sudden Y'all blind to these murders
Happening right in front of a liquor store
Who knew the last footage of someone was gonna be inside of a liquor store
R.I.P Alton Sterling, he was just tryna make a living
R.I.P, Trayvon Martin, just another black angel, and heaven was getting tired of waiting
Nah I'm not done I can go on for a hundred days
It would probably take a hundred days to list all the black people killed in a hundred days
I stay up worried hopin’ my brothers out there safe
God forbid his name turning into a hashtag is his fate
please believe my people not takin’ this real easy
We keepin these fists up until we can walk these streets freely


Reuben D'Silva, teacher, Rancho High School; Shaniece Hicks, vice president, Rancho High School Black Student Union; Derek Washington, chair, Black Democratic Empowerment Project 

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Kristy Totten is a producer at KNPR's State of Nevada. Previously she was a staff writer at Las Vegas Weekly, and has covered technology, education and economic development for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. She's a graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism.