Many of our city's young people expect political change to happen overnight. Their excitement is great, but that's just not how the process or the system works. To educate and prepare Richmond's young people to help create a local government that truly represents them, they need to understand the hard facts and details of the mechanics behind change. The Black American Political Action Committee (BAPAC) is planning to develop a leadership academy in Richmond, and the political process and engagement will be the main focus of our training.
Our main push is to make politics and public policy – ideas which can be hard to grasp – into realities that connect with people's everyday lives. On November 4th, Election Day, most items on the ballot will relate to electing individuals to office, a pretty easy concept to understand. Ballot measures and propositions, however, can be harder to relate to. Many young people don't see how a measure will impact their lives, when the truth is that these items can have profound affects on their community. Understanding the connection between public policy and family is crucial if the city's young people want to have their interests represented in city government.
It is up to us, the older generation, to convey this importance upon our city's young people. Once they understand how policy connects with their lives, we need to show them how the small details of the political process affect and create significant political outcomes. This will take walking through the process of how an idea for change becomes a measure on a ballot, and then how an approved measure is enacted to better the city. Doing this isn't always easy. There are many technical aspects at work in this process which can be abstract and hard to conceptualize. It will take some dedicated individuals to sit down with our city's politically-minded young people if we want to achieve our desired results. Understanding this, however, will be key if we expect them to one day craft legislation of their own.
All of this takes time. Along the way our young people must visualize the connection between the words on a ballot measure and the real changes that would affect families and communities around the city. Only then will our young people be able to fully understand the processes and challenges behind affecting change in our city, and only through this process will they be able to carefully consider the changes needed to craft the best future our City of Pride and Purpose.
But before we push these young people to run for public office we must educate and train them. Engaging young people in politics starts with voter education and understanding the issues. It’s hard enough to get our city's young people out to the polls on Election Day to vote.
Unfortunately, time is running out for this year’s election. Voter turn out is expected to be lower than if we were in a Presidential election year, but the need to vote in the upcoming election is all the more important because of the number of council seats that are open, including the office of Mayor.
At the end of the day, and come November 4th, it will be up to the registered voters to step forward and say through their vote, "I want to change our city for the better, and it starts with our leaders that we elect to represent our interest on the city council." Our young people understanding the complicated political processes behind real change won’t happen overnight. The bottom line is that we must prepare our young people as leaders that understand the political process behind the change they want. Then, the younger generation will empower themselves to carry the torch and charter the course of Richmond's future.
By: Lloyd Madden, BAPAC President