2017 Best Practices for Youth Conference

Q & A Session and Panel Discussion

Youth Activism and Social Change

Jessica K. Taft

Jessica K. Taft is an Associate Professor of Latin American and Latino Studies at the University of California at Santa Cruz. An interdisciplinary youth studies scholar, trained as a sociologist, her research agenda bridges the scholarship on youth, childhood, and girlhood with research on social movements, activism, and political engagement. Drawing on diverse literatures on Latin American social movements, youth citizenship, children’s rights, transnational feminist theory, participatory democracy, and political identity construction, her work focuses on the political lives of children and youth across the Americas. This research engages the theoretical question of how identity narratives shape social movement practices, centering on the ways that the subject categories of child, youth, adult, teenager, and girl are discursively constructed within transnational and local political cultures and how these subject categories matter for the strategies, organizational structures, and internal dynamics of social movements across the Americas. Empirically, she answers these questions through qualitative field research on young people’s activism across the Americas. Her work challenges commonplace assumptions about the passivity, apathy, and ignorance of youth people, highlighting instead their political agency and creativity. She is the author of Rebel Girls: Youth Activism and Social Change Across the Americas (NYU Press 2011), co-editor (with Sandi Kawecka Nenga) of Youth Engagement: The Civic-Political Lives of Children and Youth (Emerald Publishing 2013), and is currently completing a book manuscript entitled Challenging Childhood: Pursuing Intergenerational Equality in Peru’s Movement of Working Children. She has also published articles on youth and politics in a range of journals including Girlhood Studies, Politics & Gender, Childhood, Youth & Society, and Education, Citizenship & Social Justice. Taft is also a co-editor of the new NYU Press book series, Critical Perspectives on Youth.

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Ron Gochez

Ron Gochez was born and raised in Los Angeles. He is the proud son of two working-class migrants from El Salvador and Mexico who were undocumented at the time of his birth.  

After high school, Ron attended San Diego State University and earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Social Science and minored in Chicana/o Studies. Ron was also Chair of MEChA de SDSU in 2001. In 2006 he earned a Master’s degree in Education at UCLA. He currently teaches US History and Raza Studies at Maya Angelou High School in South Central LA.  

Ron is known for being a dynamic grassroots community organizer. Ron was a founder and continues to be a leading member of multiple community based organizations and coalitions, including the Southern California Immigration Coalition, the Association of Raza Educators and Union del Barrio. Ron also serves on the South Central Neighborhood Council and the Zapata-King Neighborhood Council.  

He is a leading figure in Los Angeles when it comes to migrant rights, Black and Brown Unity, anti-police brutality work and workers’ rights issues. Because of a campaign that Ron began in 2005, the LAPD and subsequently, the State of California changed their policy around police “sobriety checkpoints” and 30-day car impounds.  

Ron is an internationally recognized political analyst. He has appeared in hundreds of television and newspaper interviews from across the world. As a member of Union del Barrio, he has participated in numerous political delegations to El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Venezuela and the Philippines.  

In 2013, Ron shook up LA politics when he ran the People’s Campaign for LA City Council. Most recently, in conjunction with fellow educators, Ron led a campaign to get LAUSD to make ethnic studies courses a requirement for high school graduation. By 2019, every high school in LAUSD will be required to offer courses such as Raza Studies, African America Studies…etc.

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1pm Eastern, 10am Pacific

Workshop Description

Today, there are about 1.8 billion youth around the world; the largest youth population ever. From Africa, Asia, Middle East, Europe, and North America, youth have been at the center of social movements, and even leading movements against oppression, and social injustice. The presenters will highlight what it means to be a youth activist, and share narratives of youth engaging in activism and the impact it has on society. Participants will increase awareness of youth participation in activism and recognize the capacity that youth have in creating social change.

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