Youth in Action: November-December 2016

From the November-December 2016 issue of News & Letters

by Natalia Siegel

Photo from Wits Fees Must Fall

The Fees Must Fall movement in South Africa continues to grow and challenge the ruling ANC government. Student protesters and their supporters, despite receiving promises that college fees would be frozen, are demanding decolonization of the curriculum to rid it of pro-European settler bias. The reaction has been brutal. In recent weeks, more than 500 students have been arrested, with serious injuries as police use pepper spray, rubber bullets and stun grenades and have dragged women by their hair. The task force that South African President Jacob Zuma established to “normalize” the situation at the universities is dominated by members of the internal security apparatus.

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In late September, over 350 students at Boston College rallied to denounce an anti-gay atmosphere at the school after a brazenly anti-gay slur was discovered. Students, covering their mouths with rainbow-colored bandages, equated silence with violence and complained of discrimination against other minorities on campus as well.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studied health issues affecting LGBTQ high school students, including suicide and attempted suicide, but did not include transgender students in the survey. The Trevor Project, a group focused on the real risk of suicide among LGBTQ youth, in noting the CDC’s lack of data on transgender students, stated that over 25% of all transgender youth have tried to commit suicide in the last calendar year.

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In Mid-July, over two dozen Native American youth in Klamath County, Oregon, protested a drainage of polluted water into a key river. They demanded a thorough cleanup of the Klamath Strait Drain, which has damaged downstream communities and valuable salmon and steelhead fishing preserves. They took samples of the polluted water and then marched to downtown Klamath Falls where they had a salmon “die-in.” They held signs proclaiming, “Save the Klamath,” “BOR (Bureau of Reclamation) Clean Up Your Mess,” “Politicians Lie Salmon Die,” and “Protect Our Earth, Not Your Profits.”

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