FPA Connects: Youth Leader Series Explores Youth Civic Engagement

Dylan Playfair meets Maalik Shakoor in Ferguson, Mo. in a screenshot from the documentary “The Drop: Why Young People Don’t Vote”, which will be screened at Carleton on Sept. 29.

When an unarmed 18-year-old black man was fatally shot by police in Ferguson, Mo. in August 2014, student Maalik Shakoor joined the crowds in the streets.

Angered by a shooting that he saw as a symbol of American police brutality, he became part of the “Black Lives Matter” movement that spread across the country.

Shakoor is featured in the film documentary The Drop: Why Young People Don’t Vote, which will be shown on Tuesday, Sept. 29 as part of the FPA Connects series at Carleton. He’ll also participate in a panel discussion following the event, geared toward undergraduate students.

The film follows actor and filmmaker Dylan Playfair as he travels around North America interviewing youth leaders and politicians. Playfair made the documentary with friend and fellow filmmaker, Kyle McCachen, who will also take part in the panel discussion.

Playfair says he and McCachen started asking youth why they weren’t voting during a provincial campaign in British Columbia. But they soon realized that the issue was much more widespread: youth across North America seemed disillusioned by the political process.

“In every city we visited, we found young people felt voting had to be accompanied by action: that if you really want to change the world, you had to do it yourself,” says Playfair, who spent two years creating the documentary. “That’s a change from previous generations, when people would wait for the government to enact policy changes. Kids today don’t want to wait that long.”

That description resonates with Maalik Shakoor in Ferguson. The Webster University student says people in his city are focused on action.
“Voting for politicians doesn’t do much,” argues Shakoor. “But protesting brings political issues to light. If we don’t make any noise, they won’t know what we’re protesting for.”

To learn more about youth engagement, Carleton Political Science Prof. Bill Cross interviewed students at five Canadian universities. He asked them to list activities that are most likely to lead to policy change. Boycotts and protests fared well; joining a political party was last on the list.

“Students said the political parties were too hierarchical and leader-dominated,” says Cross, who will also take part in the panel discussion “They’re more likely to join an advocacy group like Greenpeace and lobby on one issue.”

Cross says election turnout tends to improve when there’s a tight race, as we’re seeing this year. “We may see a stronger youth vote in October because when it’s a tight race, people feel their party has a chance. This year, three parties have a chance.”

In addition to the documentary screening, FPA is hosting an Election Night Party open to the entire campus community on Monday, Oct. 19. It will feature election coverage on a big screen and a panel discussion with FPA political pundits.

The final FPA Connects event will be a panel discussion with young professionals working in the political arena. Entitled How to Get That Job, it’s geared towards undergraduates.

To learn more and to register, visit the FPA Connects page.

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