Millennials are society’s power players today, advocates said, and political views are being altered daily by the activism of today’s young adults. The success of the Global Climate Change strike on Sept. 20, 2019, led by young people, demonstrated that power can come from those still not empowered to vote.
The Power Coalition for Equity and Justice highlighted how important issues like equal economic opportunities, sustaining criminal justice reform, prioritizing fiscal fairness and ensuring fair electoral districts are to young voters today at Xavier’s Constitution Day event on Sept. 17, 2019. The event was organized by the Political Science department, Xavier’s College Democrats and the Political Science club and Pre-Law club.
“We are a collaboration of organizations that are really working to build power within our communities,” said Raegan Carter, the statewide campaign director for the Power Coalition. “We fully engage within groups of the community and talk about the issues that impact the community and collect all of that information and share the information with the candidates at candidate forums that these are their concerns,” Carter explained to students during the session.
The organization explains the impact of major laws and helps communities to engage in how these laws affect them. The Power Coalition is a non-profit, non-partisan group that works to address political systems that have kept the state of Louisiana at or near the bottom of the United States with educational, financial and political freedom. Carter shared that they target millennials, particularly, because young people continue to lead changes in politics today.
She encouraged students to use their voices to make change within their communities and campus. She said the coalition’s work is to equip Louisianans with knowledge and information to find their voice and how to use it.
Many students at the event shared that they were concerned about politics today, and wanted to voice their opinions but are timid to do so and did not know how they should start. They said that who is elected over the next four years will impact the economy when they graduate. They also shared that they have stayed away from voting since the 2016 elections, because they do not feel candidates on either side are listening.
“We did a listening tour for about three years across the state engaging different community members, different organizations, faith leaders and we came up with what we call ‘The People’s Agenda,’” Carter said.
Throughout these communities many of the men and women are working as hard as they can to expand economic opportunity and the productive ways they can do so and share them to their city and state politicians so younger generations will have an easier access to financial freedom, she said. For instance, Carter noted that in 22 years, the minimum wage has only increased by $3 in the state. Despite recent progress in criminal justice reform in the state, Carter noted that Louisiana is known as the second state across the world that has the largest population of people in the prison system. Helping the formerly incarcerated regain their voting rights is also an important task of the coalition. She said that it is also important to point out the unfairness in the tax code that gives major corporations large breaks, while workers earn unlivable minimum wages.
“We have to consider how important it is to educate the people around us such as our families, neighbors and peers on how we can make changes, knowledge is power and with endless knowledge there is always room for improvement within our society,” Carter said.
Students reflected on ways they can implement the “people’s agenda” and how to become power voters. They noted that creating businesses within their communities, becoming actively engaged in politics and most importantly helping others gain back their right to vote are ways to move forward.
“Starting with rehabilitation within prisons and then helping to get their right to vote back so that we can make more of an influence with them,” said Troy Hamilton, a Xavier student who attended the event.
The coalition hopes to continue to move across the state to have more millennials participate in local elections and not just national ones alone.
“We are hoping to engage voters throughout the state to make sure they are aware of much of what is happening on Oct. 12 for the primary election, and we’re hoping that we will engage voters in a way to let them know that their voice and their vote is the power that they have to make sure that elective officials represent the work and the things that they care about,” Carter said.