Youth Activists Voice Out During the U.S. Elections

Early voting in New York City started today. And for the hundreds of protesters who have been demonstrating every day since George Floyd’s death in May, the day took on a special meaning. Laurence Tan reports. 

“Sound from Columbus Circle”

Tan: About a hundred people are in Columbus Circle, preparing to march up Broadway to East Harlem. Sixteen year old Stephanie Pacheco traveled from the Bronx to join the protest.

Pacheco: The institutionalized racism that exists in our country is like huge, but that’s like a really big umbrella term and it like branches into so many things, like institutional racism exists into education and health care, and obviously the prison system, and law enforcement system. America has a really big, old problem with racism and I feel that’s so embedded in this country and I think that’s a big issue.

Tan: Pacheco co-founded a group called “The Defiance” with her friend Liana Garcia. They are both too young to vote and Garcia says children need to be taken seriously.

Garcia: As a child, I hope to achieve liberation, and hope that my people can one day be free, from the chains that we face, and the chans that are put on us from society, from our governments. Overall I just want black children to know that it gets better and we’re going to want to make it better, and we just want to keep on fighting.

“Sound of people chanting”

Tan: Passing Lincoln Center, which is one of the voting stations in Manhattan, a voter peels away to cast her early vote.

“Sound of people cheering”

Tan: Marching along Eighth Avenue and passing 125th Street, the crowd started chanting against the gentrification at Harlem which pushed black people further into poverty as rents increase and historic buildings are torn down. 

“Sound of people chanting against gentrification”

Tan: Living in the Bronx, Garcia says she sees problems with inequality across the city and especially in the Bronx, which includes poor housing conditions, mental health problems, and people living in shelters without blankets during winter.

Garcia: These are things that don’t just affect me, they affect so many more kids, and I think that is something we need to focus on. Food and security, so many kids have to go home, wondering if they’re going to get a meal. Some kids depend specifically on school lunch, some kids can’t afford lunch in their schools, and I think we need to work as a community to fix that.

Tan: Many Americans have been demanding for change while taking over the streets. Yet it is clear that the rallies alone isn’t enough and it will take a long time for change to happen. Pacheco explains what keeps her motivated.

Pacheco: For me what keeps me going is like, I say in our marches, we’ll pass by groups of young black kids, and they’ll like cheer with us and chant with us, and march with us. They believe in the movement and their watching, and they want change, and I guess me wanting to see that change for them, for young black children. I guess that’s what keeps me going.

“Sound of people chanting”