Last weekend the Urban Mission Center hosted Justice Day St. Louis. We partnered with the Justice Conference and focused on the topic of justice for youth. We decided on this topic because we understand the importance of this discussion as we work to seek shalom in our city. Our apprentices brought together six local educators, activists, and organizers to help lead attendees towards not only learning about the problems that youth face, but also how we can be involved in advocating for youth. An important piece for all of us to remember as we seek this work is to listen to what Karissa Anderson said during the panel, we must give youth space to speak for themselves, we cannot just assume that we know what they want and need.
Aaron Layton began the day with a message about the importance of education for our youth. As an educator, Mr. Layton cares deeply about education and how it affects students. If we do not give all children a quality education then we are putting them far behind in the race of life, and this disproportionately affects youth of color. Mr. Layton referenced this article during his talk, I would recommend reading it to find out more about school funding. The next speaker was Michelle Higgins. She spoke to us about engaging youth in justice work. Her main point was that youth need two things from those who seek to work with them; discipleship and advocacy. It’s essential that we give youth good models to follow as they grow up in this world that often wants to think the worst of them. We have to walk with them so that they know that we truly care for them and that we want the world to see them as we do. We finished the day with a panel of four local organization leaders who are actively engaged in working with the city’s youth. Rev. Dietra Wise Baker, Darren Young, Karissa Anderson, and Marlon Wharton shared their experience from working with youth and how they work to mentor and advocate for the youth they serve.
Justice Day was about coming together to find out how we can best work to support our youth and it was a success. All of our speakers brought some hard truths to the table and the participants left with tangible ways in which they could join in the work of pursuing justice for youth wherever they are. Those who came to the event have already asked if we will be putting on another event like this and we look forward to providing more spaces for this type of conversation to happen in the future.