NextGen: A Home for Change

Jun 21st, 2019 | By | Category: BLTN NextGen, Featured, Summer 2019

by Erin Fridie

Erin Fridie (Aiken, SC) just graduated a year early from Aiken High School and enlisted in the Navy. She loves singing and playing the piano.

For the past few years my younger sister and I have been displaced, moving from house to house, never getting too comfortable or being too sure that we’d sleep in the same bed for more than a week. After being displaced again this past Christmas and feeling entirely alone with the weight of the world on my shoulders, I just mentally needed a place to go, a place where my situation didn’t exist, a place where I could be a kid—something I didn’t have the luxury of doing in my everyday life. I found that in NextGen.

NextGen happened to be hosting a writing lab at Aiken High School. I participated, and the experience gave me a chance to put myself back together and write. To my surprise I really enjoyed it. By the end of the lab I felt a pull towards the other students in NextGen, and they listened intently as I read a speech about my experience of being biracial. This was the first time I felt the power of youth voice, and from then on, I knew that this was where I belonged.

Even though I have only been in NextGen for a short time, I feel like this program has already changed my life. In fact, I wish I would have joined a lot sooner. Before I joined NextGen, I kept my thoughts on our societal issues to myself, thinking that no one would listen or take my views seriously, but NextGen has changed that perspective for me. For the first time I feel as though my voice is important and that a change in the way society perceives youth is possible.

Getting to visit the Navajo Nation was an experience I will never forget. It was amazing to be around so many people my age with the same passion and energy to see change in our society. I am also eternally grateful for the adults who are fighting to give our youth a voice and a platform to use it. Being on the Navajo Nation also gave me the opportunity to learn about issues that I had never been exposed to or even thought much about such as the kidnapping of indigenous women. Since going to Navajo Nation, I have talked about my experience and raised awareness for the Navajo People to anyone who will listen.

My experience has also raised the need, in my eyes, for change in our school systems to embrace not only the youth, but also the teachers teaching them. I have come to the knowledge recently that in my home district of Aiken County, South Carolina, none of our school board members are actual teachers. This seems more than a little backwards to me. How can someone who has not taught or is not currently teaching a class know what is best for our schools? In a similar sense, how can we make improvements to our school systems if we are not listening to the very people who experience them?

I think the first step to change is to open the eyes and ears of those in charge by having our youth come together with our teachers as we have in NextGen. With the wisdom of our teachers and the experiences of our youth, our program could become a force to be reckoned with. Together we cannot be ignored and together we cannot be silenced

Chocolate Milk
By Erin Fridie

Why do we put everything in boxes?
Why do things such as skin color still matter?
Is my “skin color” going to change my answers on a math test?

If we are so focused on boxing our lives based on skin color,
Why is it, that on a survey you can always find “Pacific Islander”,
But when it comes to being “bi-racial” or “mulatto”,
More often than not you are only allowed to choose one race
or become “other”
In a way we are still segregating ourselves to the fact
That bi-racial couples are becoming more prominent,
And that being bi-racial is the fastest growing “race” in the U.S
So why do we suppress something so, beautiful?
Why do people gawk and stare at a bi-racial family as if it is not right?
Why is it that being, in my case, Black and white,
Means that I will always be too “white” to fit in with the blacks
And too “black” to fit in with the whites?
And when I make my voice heard to either group
I am told that I take it to seriously,
That its “not that deep”
But truly,
It is
I am the bi-product of something truly beautiful
I am the product of broken boundaries and expectations,
So why, is MY race suppressed
Why is this no seen as an issue
Why does my school contact form say that I am black when I clearly
Circled both black AND white
Why am I expected to choose between the two colors?
Why does it matter?
Whites will say I act to “Black”
Blacks will say I act to “White”
But in truth,
How can I ACT a color?
I will succeed one way or another
And I will continue to break “social norms”
I believe that the world would be such a better place
If we just mixed it
I will close by saying,
I strongly dislike milk and chocolate,
But if you put them in a cup,
And give it a stir,
You get chocolate milk,
One of my favorite drinks in the whole world
And that’s just some food for thought.

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