You're Never Too Young to Lead

Black advocates try to motivate a new generation of leaders and voters.

Posted: 05/01/2012 02:37 PM EDT

While most teenage girls are focused on clothes, boys and creating their own versions of their favorite star’s sartorial style, Mary-Pat Hector has loftier ambitions. The 14-year-old Atlanta native is part of a group of young leaders being groomed by the National Action Network (NAN). She’s also the national youth director of NAN’s Youth Move initiative, which encourages young people to be more engaged in civic and social justice issues.

 

Mary-Pat travels around the country, logging about 4,000 miles a month speaking at high schools, colleges, conferences, shelters and other sites, where she trains other youths on advocacy and teen safety.

 

One of her key partners in advocacy is 12-year-old Victoria Parnell, who heads Youth Move’s northeast regional activities in New York City. She recently led an anti-violence march in Harlem as part of an effort to take back the streets from the drug dealers and gang members, and she has been active in the fight to save United States Post offices, according to the initiative’s new website page.

 

The two young leaders were featured prominently at NAN’s recent conference in Washington, D.C. They got a shout-out from Education Secretary Arne Duncan and publically called out Alfred Liggins, president and CEO of Radio One and the creator of TV One, about heavily featuring often misogynist and violent hip hop and rap music, because it earns money for his stations, during a panel discussion on media, politics and race.

 

Youth Move is part of a growing effort by national leaders to get young African-Americans more involved. Rev. Jesse Jackson earlier this week urged the congregants of the 93rd Street Community Baptist Church in West Little River, Florida, to teach young people about the importance of the vote, The Miami Herald reports.

 

Jackson told the group that they can use their vote to affect issues they care about, such as federally funded student loans and Medicaid. He wants “voting to feel as automatic as the way people put their hands over their hearts as soon as they hear The Star Spangled Banner,” added Jackson, who planned to spend part of his time in Florida helping Miami Central High School students register to vote.

 

 

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(Photo: Mary-Pat Hector)

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