Youth-led social justice movements lead the way in Cambridge around issues of race and climate
by Jennat Jounaidi
The goal for my History Cambridge fellowship, starting in February, was to connect the history of the city with issues affecting its teenage and young-adult residents, raising awareness and promoting action. As my fellowship comes to a close, I’ve learned a lot from teens around Cambridge that has changed my perspective and added to my understanding of various topics and experiences.
As a student at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, I was always aware of the important role our Black Student Union played in cultural climate. Our schools often overlook the work these student-led clubs and affinity groups do, but the Black Student Union is even more than that – it’s a vital safe space where students go to express themselves freely and relate to others.
The BSU’s primary function is helping unite and restore our school climate, including through conversations hosted weekly throughout the school year in which all students can discuss and debate topics ranging from incarceration, colorism and texturism to stereotypes and microaggressions. The BSU isn’t just having an effect on the political and social scene at CRLS, but across the city: This winter it partnered with Cambridge Youth Council and raised more than $10,000 for nonprofits fighting homelessness.
Another youth-led group I worked with was Cambridge’s Sunrise Movement branch – one of more than 400 such hubs in the United States – which is doing a lot for our community in the fight for climate justice. It has organized marches and rallies, held conversations with local officials and found ways to make Cambridge a cleaner city.
It took me around four months of immersion to really understand the work and advocacy of these groups. The end result: videos with interviews, information and resources that will soon be available on the History Cambridge Instagram and YouTube pages. Follow and subscribe so you don’t miss them when they go live.
Understanding how group members’ knowledge is fueled by experience was eye-opening. Being able to change the lens through which I looked at an issue, including how issues such as climate change affect socioeconomic groups differently, was one of the most valuable things I learned.
Thank you to History Cambridge for providing me this opportunity. Having the space as a teen to use my voice is something not many get the chance to do. I hope I can motivate other teens and young adults to find their passion and use it to make a change – your voice matters, it is respected, and it will be heard by others.
Jennat Jounaidi is History Cambridge’s teen fellow, a position supported by a grant from the Cambridge Community Foundation. She is a rising 11th grader at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School who was born and raised in Cambridge.
This article was originally published in our “Did You Know?” column in Cambridge Day.