Youth Voice: A Letter to My Past Self

Over the summer, ThreeSixty Journalism opened a call for youth to weigh in on recent events in the community. Students were asked to submit audio, visual, and written entries in response to a youth-inspired prompt. The latest #360YouthVoiceChallenge is open to all high school students through Nov. 15, 2020. This fall, the #360YouthVoiceChallenge comes with its own Youth Voice Workshop, wherein students can work on writing personal essays and editorials that they may submit to the #360YouthVoiceChallenge. 

Olivia Sorenson, senior at Concordia Academy

Dear past self,

Racial injustice has been a problem around the world for decades, but in 2020 the death of an unarmed black man will change everything. On May 25, 2020, George Floyd will be the victim of homicide due to the carelessness of a Minneapolis police officer. Floyd will be suspected of using a counterfeit $20 bill, and when officers arrive the situation will quickly escalate. Officers will pin Floyd to the ground, and one officer, Derek Chauvin, will kneel on Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and fifteen seconds, causing him to go into cardiopulmonary arrest due to lack of oxygen and blood flow, which will result in Floyd’s death. The video taken by bystanders will quickly go viral and just a few days later protests will begin.

#360YouthVoiceChallenge: Summer 2020

Over the next several days protest and riots will continue. It will eventually get to the point where people are so outraged they refuse to stop until they are heard and changes are made. The National Guard will be called in and only then will things begin to calm down. At first, it might be scary—a video of the National Guard shooting rubber bullets at people sitting on their front porch will go viral, and you will begin to realize how serious the situation is.

Parts of Minneapolis will be burned down, businesses will be closed, your mom will be sent home early from work because protests are getting close to her, and when you drive down the street businesses will be boarded up and filled with art in remembrance of Floyd. Your city will also be placed under a mandatory curfew and if you are out after that time there will be consequences. This may be a little unsettling to see, but you will need to understand that people are upset, they have reached their breaking point; far too many African Americans have been murdered by police and it’s time for a change.

At first, it may seem like this doesn’t directly affect you, but you need to take time to reflect. Understand your privilege, understand you will never need to worry about being looked at differently for the color of your skin. You will need to educate yourself, listen to your friends of color and do anything you can to help. Going to protests will possibly be dangerous, so if you do not feel safe that is OK, but that doesn’t mean you get to just do nothing. This is your fight, too; you are an ally and you stand with them. Sign petitions, repost images and talk about it. Spread awareness and never stop fighting for what you know is right. This may get overwhelming, but remember African Americans have been fighting this fight for decades and it’s time something changes. Your voice will be heard. You may have friends who remain silent — encourage them to speak up because every voice matters. This fight is not over yet, so keep fighting for the African Americans in your life.