Raleigh, N.C., youth demand jobs program

By Dante Strobino

Raleigh FIST

Several dozen unemployed youth rallied here on Dec. 4 at the Employment Security Commission headquarters, demanding “A jobs program at a living wage, not war and prisons!”

Organized by Fight Imperialism, Stand Together (FIST) and Black Workers for Justice youth, the protest was calling for the state government to put pressure on Washington to create a comprehensive jobs program that would directly employ youth. The demand centered around jobs that could help young workers acquire new skills, rather than prepare them for dead-end jobs at fast-food restaurants or elsewhere in the service industry. For many of the youth, it was their first time at any political rally.

Photo: Raleigh FIST

“Many youth in the area have a great deal of unused potential, but due to a lack of resources the great potential becomes internalized and unleashed in other ways — not so productive ways,” stated Alicia Sydney, a single mother living in Walnut Terrace public housing in Raleigh. “This is why I am so grateful for the FIST organization, because it allowed me to be a part of something positive that brings hope for the future. There is no doubt that our youth are advancing beyond the foundations laid out so many years ago and the time has come for our society to make accommodations to nurture our growing potential.”

Angelica Horton, who graduated from Athens High School last year and is currently working less than 10 hours per week at Dairy Queen for minimum wage, said, “It was my first rally and I think it is important for young people to stand up and fight for our futures, for better jobs, because protesting shows and tells the truth.”

Earlier that morning the latest unemployment statistics were released indicating that jobs continue to be lost. Jobs have been lost for 22 months in a row, the longest streak since the government started keeping these statistics in 1939. In North Carolina, the county-by-county unemployment figures show that the number of people out of work has gone up in every county, with some rural counties topping 15 percent. For youth of color, the numbers can be three times higher and an alarming number end up in prison.

Outrage at the rally also focused on the recent troop surge in Afghanistan, which will cost an additional $50 billion, at the same time that the quality of education is declining.

“Young people we’ve talked to are excited to organize and fight for jobs, to fight for their futures, for a real jobs program which gives us opportunities to grow and develop,” stated FIST organizer Vidya Sankar. “We definitely made it very clear that we won’t allow the bosses and warmongers to destroy our generation and that we will fight.”

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