The Next Louisville: Black Youth Talk Race And Identity
This year, as part of The Next Louisville, WFPL is highlighting the stories of youth in our community. Some of that is through long- and short-form stories about kids, teenagers and young adults and their interests, achievements and challenges. You’ll also hear more first-person stories about and by young people in Louisville.
As part of this project, we’ve planned a different kind of platform to let youth talk about issues that matter to them.
Six youth talk shows are planned this year, all focusing on different topics, in partnership with WE Day Kentucky. The first, timed to coincide with Black History Month, features four young people talking about race and identity — and they don’t shy away from the issues.
The discussion was moderated by Alexis Cammock, a senior at Presentation Academy. Joining her in the studio were Ashanti Scott, a senior at Butler High School, Nia Douglas, a junior at The Brown School, and Jalen Dykes, a sixth grader at W.E.B. DuBois Academy.
The conversation will air Thursday at 8 p.m. on 89.3 WFPL; you can listen to it in the player above or read highlights below.
On how the media portrays black people:
Ashanti: “I think that the media really puts black people into this box. And we see — with a lot of movies and TV shows, we see kind of the same type of black people. We see the black people that you know, they fit the stereotype and this strong generalization, but I'm like, ‘there's so many different types of black people.’ And because of that, when we see a person of color, we only expect them to speak this certain way or dress this certain way. Like, there are black people who speak Spanish. There are black people who like to play the violin or like to do poetry. There's black people who, you know, don't like to wear Jordans. And so, those stereotypes really make people assume that this is all black people are, you know. And then they lead to questions like ‘do you like fried chicken?’ Or ‘do you like Kool Aid?’ Because that's what they see on a TV show. And it’s like, not every black person fits that stereotype.”
On “blackfishing”— where non-black people darken their skin in an attempt to look black:
Nia: “It makes me feel kind of disrespected. It’s like, they want your skin color and the clout that comes with it, but just for a couple hours, for a couple Instagram posts. And then they get to wipe it off. And I don't get to wipe off all this oppression and hardship that I have to deal with for the rest of my life.”
Alexis: “It hurts, but at the same time it fuels me, too. It’s like, ‘OK, you don't think I'm going to do it, so I'm going to do it just to prove you wrong,’ you know?”
On the power of seeing black people in influential positions:
Ashanti: “I think when my mom [Louisville Rep. Attica Scott] got elected to the Kentucky state legislature as the first black woman in 20 years two years ago, it really showed the racial disparities that we have, the barriers that we still have that we only have one black woman in the entire 138-member strong Kentucky state legislature. And that shows me that we need to make a change and make sure we're being inclusive and getting people of color into those elected spaces.”
Nia: “It’s kind of like if you put people in a box that's all they feel they can be. If all you see in the media is just black people — and black women specifically — portrayed as negative, you kind of think that's all you’ll ever amount to be. But if you see people like Rep. Scott then it gives you like a boost of confidence. Like we could be up there too.”
Alexis: “Seeing all those women of color---not just black people but women of color--be elected in those midterm elections was just amazing. It was just like, ‘Okay. We can be this, we can be these people, we can be these women. It was just so cool to me.”
Jalen: “On a political standpoint, I think what needs to happen is we probably need to start encouraging more people to vote. Because right now, people they know they can vote but they’re still scared to vote. They’re just afraid that someone's going to be rude to them… You can't be scared to vote. You have to voice your opinion, because one vote could literally be the difference between a country together and a country falling apart.”
On how their schools teach black history:
Nia: “Well, I would say it's not even the one month. I go to Brown and at our school, [Advanced Placement] European history is mandatory and African American History is not even an elective. And it’s European history, so of course you aren’t going to learn about black people. So we don't really get taught anything, especially this year.”
Ashanti: “I would say that our school, it's very problematic how they teach black history. It's mainly the same thing. It's reoccurring. It's you know, Rosa Parks, Dr. King — who were awesome. They were great civil rights leaders. But black history is deeper than that. And we have to make sure that when we're teaching these curriculums that we're really delving into black history, in the same manner we do with European history and things like that.”
Jalen: “Actually, at my school we have so much black history. This year, we have started coming through and actually electing black historians that we think that indented the world such as Malcolm X, John Lewis, Rosa Parks, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, the big six. We're into all cultures, but we're mainly deeply into black history…I really do feel like it's opened up a giant section in black history.”
On how they, as youth, can continue to work toward equality for all races:
Ashanti: “I think it's important that, as youth, that we make sure we're watching elections if you're of age. And even if you're not of age, because you can still contact elected officials. I try to reiterate that so much to people who aren't 18: you can still send in a letter. I know for me personally, there are some girls from Mercy Academy that wrote letters to legislators in Frankfort, advocating for them to support the ‘No Pink Tax’ bill. So just making sure that we're watching what's going on when it comes to laws and legislation, because that impacts us the most. And like, I know, in Kentucky, for people of color, we're one of two states that don't restore voting rights. And so we can help black people get to the polls and be able to use their voice if we're putting the pressure on our legislators and on our representatives to vote that type of way.”
Alexis: “I think that what we're doing right now is also a very good start. We're all youth. We're all peers. We're having this conversation for people to hear, for people to listen. It's a start. If people can just have that conversation we'll get somewhere.”
The Next Louisville project is a collaboration between WFPL News and the Community Foundation of Louisville. For more work from the project, click here.