Five questions with WPSC keynote speaker Jada Monica Drew

Jada Monica Drew is an author and diversity training expert. She will be presenting a keynote address and workshop aimed at youth at the upcoming White Privilege Symposium at Brock University Sept. 30-Oct.1. The following is a Q&A with Drew.

Q: Why is a conversation about white privilege important for youth to participate in?

A: Youth experience the effects of white privilege daily, whether they know it or not. It is important for youth to have a space to express their feelings, share their thoughts, and to work to make sense of the inequity they notice and feel daily.

Q: What is SNAP and how does it assist youth in pushing for social change?

The acronym SNAP means See Name Act Proceed. This is the framework we present to the youth as a way to structure the Youth Action Project experience. We discuss the many ways we SEE or witness how white privilege is enacted and demonstrated in our lives and the lives of others. White privilege plays out differently regionally, nationally and even in different socioeconomic classes. The youth work collectively with the adult leaders to NAME white privilege. This means we all work towards a shared definition. The process of creating and developing shared language is a valuable tool for awareness and understanding that leads towards change. We strategize with the youth to generate methods for ACTION. These acts can include starting a school club, hosting a group meeting, or sharing knowledge with peers and family members. The YAP team believes in the power and the voice our youth have and we make space for them to brainstorm how to create action, but also to think about long-term sustainability. We share examples of what it looks like to PROCEED after YAP and after a short-term action.

Q: In your experience, how are youth best reached and engaged on social issues?

A: In my experience, they are best reached by allowing space, room and intense listening. Youth have so much to say and they also have so many solutions. However, adults get in the way by simply not allowing them to share. Engaging them in their language is important as well. Social media is led by youth. I bring in social media and multimedia tools to engage them. Over the years, the YAP experience has been led more and more by youth leaders. Research shows that peers learn best from peers.

Q: What can adults do to help empower and inspire youth to get involved?

A: Adults can do 3 things:

1. Work hard every day to understand their own privileges (adult, race, religion, gender, class, language, etc) and to uncover their actions of bias.

2. Create innovative space for youth to share.

3. Listen to the ideas of our youth and support them to act without trying to make their ideas fit into your way of doing things.

Q: In what ways can society start moving towards greater equality for all people?

A: This answer requires a dissertation. In short, our motto at Social Designs is Historic Truth-Telling + Building Relationships + Creative Action = Social Justice. To achieve equity, we need to learn about historic and contemporary systemic laws, acts, and policies that have deliberately been put in place to advantage some people over others. It is also important that we have engaging and tough dialogue in mixed spaces to better understand each other. Then we must act. We must create innovation solutions for the inequity that is in space. These solutions have to be long-term and not quick Band-Aid fixes.

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