Revolteens: This is what happens when chicken has a moment and teens are given a voice, by Christine Lively
For today’s Revolteens moment, librarian Christine Lively tells us what happened when a teen seized on the popularity of Popeye’s chicken and about a group of Indigenous teens running a blog to amplify the works of Indigenous writers.
Working in a high school, every school year has a familiar pattern of activity and excitement. The new school year starts with every possibility still available to every student and staff member. Anything can happen. There is a whole new class of students, and the returning students always seem markedly different after their summer break. We all can see endless opportunities and achievements during the first month. High school is the most student powered level of school. At my school, student government officers and representatives are being elected and starting their work. School clubs are holding their first meetings and planning their school year activities.
Soon though, many teens find that the confines of the school administration, the school day schedule, and their status as minors hold them back from really making changes they want to see. That’s when they often decide to revolt outside of their school world and make changes in their communities and the world.
One teen who seized the opportunity to revolt and make change is David Ledbetter of Charlotte, North Carolina. Mr. Ledbetter is 17 years old and is concerned about what is happening in his community. When social media started a craze with reporting on Popeyes chicken sandwiches, many people rushed out to find long lines and grumpy people waiting for their orders. Mr. Ledbetter saw an opportunity to change his community. Though he is not old enough to vote yet, he believes that voting is the best way to cause change. He grabbed a clipboard, and canvassed lines at his local Popeyes to register people to vote. According to WCNC TV, Ledbetter registered 16 voters alone on the Saturday that he canvassed the line.
‘”I decided to register people to vote after I saw there was a lack of young people politically involved,” Ledbetter said.
“I believe that it is our duty to vote as American citizens and it would be wrong not to exercise our political voice,” Ledbetter said.’
His initiative and drive will bring more voters to the polls in his community and shows how teens make a huge difference in political participation. He decided to seize an opportunity to reach out to his community and invite them to get out and vote in upcoming elections. Voting is an excellent form of revolting. He even earned a twitter shout out from President Barack Obama!
Another place that many teens take action outside of school is online. I learned of an incredible blog run by teens that does just that. Dr. Debbie Reese told me about the incredible work of Indigo’s Bookshelf which is written and run by a group of Florida Indigenous teens. I think their own description of their blog is better than anything I could try to explain.
“We are a group of Florida Natives–Miccosukee, Seminole, Black, Latinix, queer and disabled–from the ages 12-20, who are passionate about kidlit and yalit.
We believe in the power of books to reflect, entertain and enrich our lives from the time we are young ones. We enjoy books in digital and bound copies, with texts and/or graphics.
We have experienced the bitter disappointment and danger of widespread Native misrepresentation, theft, cruelty and lies in books for all young readers.
This blog is dedicated to reviewing Native #ownvoices. To us, that means books written from an inside perspective by Native authors, with proper research, respect and authorization, first and foremost for young Native readers, but also to educate other young readers and their families.
We join our elders in calling to replace harmful, stereotypical texts in libraries, schools and homes.
This blog is named after our friend Indigo, a Q2S sixteen-year-old who took her own life in 2018.
Her beauty, courage and truthfulness still guides our actions and beliefs.”
Their blog posts are enthusiastic and critical reviews and reflections on Native #ownvoices books and they’re fantastic. The teens are thoughtful, smart, and youthful in their reviews and write in their distinct voices, which I love to read in contrast to the sometimes sterile reviews written by adults. Any teacher or librarian would be wise to read these teens’ views, feelings, and analysis about the #ownvoices books they review. Their perspective is so desperately needed.
By sharing their reviews of these books, the teens who write for Indigo’s Bookshelf are changing the world outside their communities and schools by educating others far and wide about the books they love and the stories that are important to the people in their Indigenous Nations. I’m a huge fan of their work and I’ve added many of the titles that they’ve reviewed to my school library.
As the school year starts, so many teens are looking for places to belong and opportunities to change their world. We should share the stories of teens like David Ledbetter and the great reviewers and writers at Indigo’s Bookshelf with the teens in our lives to show them the change that they can make when they take on the world outside the confines of school and translate their passion into action.
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About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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