As a teenager during the Viet Nam War era, I was an activist for the causes and candidates I passionately believed in. One of the candidates I passionately believed in was Robert Kennedy. From him I learned that I could make a difference, that we all can make a difference if we try, if we speak out. But if we do not speak out, if we do not stand up and be counted, the injustice continues unabated and we become complicit in the very things we know to be wrong with our world.

In recent generations, this passion for speaking out, this passion for social activism on the scale it was during the 1960s and 1970s, has given way to very powerful social pressures to be politically correct. No matter what the realities of something are, if it is not the accepted socio-political line, it does not exist and it is not permitted for us to talk about it.

That might work to a limited degree with adults, but children and young adults are remarkably undeterred by the conventions that many of us bend to as we get older. They speak out in crystal clear voices ringing out over the din of the shushing, wagging fingers urging them in strident tones to stop stirring things up. They are told they should sit down, shut up, and go along with what is socially acceptable. If they do not, they are told their positions in society, chances for good schools, chances for good jobs and mates of good caliber will be greatly damaged.

Fortunately, not everyone agrees with that approach to life and is not intimidated enough to buy into its inherent moral and ethical compromise.

One of the organisations raising their voices and making a difference is Get Lit, whose website explains who they are and what they do like this.

Founded in 2006 in Los Angeles, Get Lit is the leading nonprofit presenter of literary performance, education, and teen poetry programs in Southern California. Get Lit uses the performance of classic and spoken word poetry to increase teen literacy. By inspiring a nation of teens to read, Get Lit is leveling the playing field between rich and poor, mainstream and marginalized, bringing previously unheard voices to the front.

In January of this year, Get Lit teens Belissa Escobedo, Rhiannon McGavin, and Zariya Allen gave a widely acclaimed spoken word performed on The Queen Latifah Show.

Their words – which can be heard in this video “SOMEWHERE IN AMERICA” telling it like it really is in America – need to be heard all over our country. It is a fantastic message for our times.

J. E. Clark
– 12 March 2015

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