Across the country, rates of youth civic engagement have increased steadily each election cycle. The highest increases come from south and southwestern states – especially among young people of color. Further, Census Bureau data shows that young people of color make up the majority of the youth population in the south. However, civic participation is disproportionately low among young people of color who are most at risk for the bad policy and extremist politics often present in the South. Due to population increases and the historic gaps in youth of color voter turnout, YEF centered its geographic focus on South and Southwestern states that are seeing the highest population and civic participation increases – Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Georgia, and Florida.
The South is a region that has traditionally lacked significant financial resources for civic engagement until 2018, especially in youth of color led efforts. The persistent climate of xenophobia, racism, and misogyny that disproportionately criminalizes and dehumanizes communities of color, coupled with a growing consciousness rooted in intersectionality among Generation Z and Millennials, creates opportunity for philanthropy to ensure year-round nonpartisan civic engagement efforts led by and for BIPOC youth and their communities. YEF supports groups that are actively working to reverse several key barriers to civic participation among youth of color in the South and Southwest including negative perceptions of youth’s authority, educating new voters, institutional commitment to advancing civic education in the k-12 and college curriculums, lack of engagement from traditional civic engagement champions, and discriminatory data sets that exclude young people of color. Local youth-focused organizations are best positioned to overcome the barriers because their positions as trusted leaders allow them to successfully inspire and motivate youth to take action to create change in their community.
Texas Youth Power Alliance Texas Youth Power Alliance (TYPA) is a coalition composed of four leading youth focused organizations in the state: Jolt Initiative, MOVE Texas, and Youth Rise Texas, and Texas Rising (a project of Texas Freedom Network).
Read the Chronicle of Philanthropy op-ed by Executive Director of the Youth Engagement Fund, Alejandra Ruiz and President of the E. Hazen Foundation, Lori Bezahler on how youth organizing is playing a key role in transforming the electorate in battleground states like Arizona, Georgia, and Florida; and the opportunity for philanthropy to center youth of color in transforming our democracy. 10/20/2020