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Power in Our Truths: Girls and Gender-Expansive Young People of Color Advancing Solutions for Change

With or Without You: Black & Brown Gen Z Young People Demand Action or Resignations from Political Leaders in New Survey

March 7, 2024

PORTLAND, OR — Today, Justice + Joy National Collaborative, a gender and racial justice advocacy organization, and New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development released survey findings from Power In Our Truths: Girls & Gender-Expansive Young People of Color Reflecting & Advancing Solutions for Change. The report, the fourth and final in the issue series, captures young people’s reflections on COVID-19, social uprisings, social media’s harmful impact on their mental health, and their policy priorities and ideas for advancing social change. A webinar will be held on Wednesday, March 20, 2024, at 5 p.m. ET/2 p.m. PT. Register here!

“It’s clear that girls and gender-expansive young people of color are bearing the brunt of social inequality. Yet their voices and concerns are overlooked by the very leaders and politicians who should be accountable to them ,” said Dr. Jamelia N. Harris, Senior Director of Collaborative Research and Innovative Thought at Justice + Joy, and Dr. Lauren C. Mims, Assistant Professor of Applied Psychology at NYU Steinhardt. “Our research highlights the urgent need to listen to girls and gender-expansive young people of color and heed their calls to action as we work collectively toward democracy that truly works for everyone.”

For Gen Z, people aged 12-27, their formative years and outlook on the future were shaped by a global pandemic, racial justice protests, economic turmoil, the overturning of Roe v. Wade, rise in anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, and other political events resulting in the loss of their bodily autonomy and civil and human rights. The Power In Our Truths report (PIOT) revealed the emotional toll of these events, the absence of mental health services, and the equitable access and distribution of resources in certain communities.

“A lot of stress and responsibility was placed on youth to make a change and put pressure on those in power. Compiled with the normal stresses of a teenager…and the lack of support systems due to the pandemic, this advocacy took a great toll on students…In order to fight for the future of our communities, we often had to sacrifice schoolwork and our mental health, which impacted our individual future opportunities,” shared a 17-year-old participant from Minnesota.

Young people also expressed frustration with political decision-makers, demanding resignations for ignoring their concerns. “The new generation is stepping up and making a change with or without decision-makers,” added one 17-year-old participant from Ohio. The survey report identified seven social issues most important to young girls and gender-expansive young people of color, including:

  1. Laws regulating bodies and reproductive health
    “I want legislators to stop making laws regarding women’s and trans folks’ bodies and lives.” -22, Hispanic/Latinx/e, nonbinary, New York.
  2. Trauma from social media and the news
    “I try to steer away from current events as they give me extreme anxiety, and it interrupts my focus in daily activities.” – 24, Hispanic, Latinx/e, she/her, New Mexico.
  3. Violence, mass shootings, and police violence
    “There’s a new tragedy posted online almost every day. We’re being flooded with traumatic events. I fear that people are starting to be desensitized. These acts of violence are almost being normalized as an everyday thing when they’re far from normal. I’m scared that more and more people are going to act on their feelings of violence because they aren’t met with consequences.” – 18, Black, nonbinary, California.
  4. Rise in hate, discrimination, state of the world
    “AAPI hate, rise in Islamophobia and anti-Palestinian sentiment, extreme polarization in the news, demonization of the queer community and youth.”-18, AAPI, she/her, Texas.
  5. Rise in widespread illness, disease
    “I was only 13 years old during the pandemic. What I would see on the news during quarantine scared me and made me think ‘Is this what future generations will have to go through again and again and yet still have to fight for change?’”- 15, Hispanic/Latinx/e, nonbinary, Washington, D.C.
  6. Climate Change
    “The climate crisis has always been deeply linked with movements for social and economic rights. Many of the issues of environmental injustice were worsened during the pandemic. Pollution and food, water, and land access is a humanitarian crisis in the US.” -17, Black, she/her, Minnesota.
  7. Financial stressors
    “This has all been an extremely emotionally and mentally distressing period of my life, as a young adult, now coupled with financial instability caused by inflation and stagnant wages. -25, Hispanic/Latinx/e, she/her, Tennessee.

Registration for the March 20 webinar can be found here. A replay will be made available.

About the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development
Located in the heart of New York City’s Greenwich Village, NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development prepares students for careers in the arts, education, health, media, and psychology. Since its founding in 1890, the Steinhardt School’s mission has been to expand human capacity through public service, global collaboration, research, scholarship, and practice. To learn more about NYU Steinhardt, visit steinhardt.nyu.edu.

About Power In Our Truths
Power in Our Truths is a report series covering police violence, mental health, the impact of COVID-19, policy action, and solutions. In 2020, Justice + Joy held focus groups with over 400 girls and gender-expansive young people of color. Participating states include Alabama, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and Washington, D.C. The Power in Our Truth report series builds off these conversations through a research survey that included responses from 121 participants. Read more about the Power in Our Truth report series here. The Solutions for Change can be read here.

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