On January 20 TAG hosted a training entitled “Adultism Vs. Youth Voice” as the first in a series of BIPOC youth led professional development workshops. The following is a reflection by one of the youth presenters.
By Andrea Dixon
Adultism? Never heard of it.
On January 4th, 2021, I received an email that would, in a general sense, change my life. My mentor from the Memphis Music Initiative presented a facilitation opportunity to me, and at first glance, I thought it would be an easy way to get involved with other organizations. However, one aspect of the project was troubling right off the bat. I had to talk about a word I never knew existed: adultism.
Great Minds Think Alike
After a small bit of research, I felt more confident in giving an explanation of adultism to someone else, and that was a sign that I’d be able to talk to my partner, Maya, and the adults assisting us, Brittney Boyd Bullock, Victor Sawyer, and Miko Lee, in an upcoming meeting about the direction of our presentation. As expected, our meeting was filled with insightful dialogue, but the unique yet similar stories and examples my group shared about being oppressed as children by an adult or being the oppressor piqued my interest. Maya’s story of being an overachiever who once overlooked adultism but soon saw its ugliness at the expense of her classmates deeply resonated with me because my experiences as a student have also been molded by adultism. The similarities in our stories and personal accounts helped me realize that adultism is a prevalent issue in our society and causes mental barriers and internal conflict. Therefore, I had to be a part of addressing this issue and helping adults rationalize their behavior towards youth.
What’s a comfort zone?
As a result of the intense meeting I attended about this presentation, I began to notice even more patterns of adultism and its effects on my life. The biggest revelation, though, was that my father displayed many acts that contribute to adultism, and I had two options. I could either turn my back on the revelation I had or ask him about his choices, and frankly, I was much more comfortable with abandoning the idea of confronting him. In spite of the uneasy feeling I got when approaching him, I still made the decision to educate him on my project and pose questions for the sake of my group and research purposes. At first his main argument was that children need guidance so adultism isn’t real, but as we continued our conversation, we both agreed that guidance is important to youth but the way it’s given can be harmful and destructive. By the end of our conversation, my dad understood what adultism was and how he contributed to it, and I gained more insight about the opposing views my group would face in our presentation.
Ten days before the virtual workshop, I received chilling news. My grandfather contracted covid-19, and if it weren’t for the fact that his health isn’t very good and that he resides in my home, I would have taken the news better. Every social plan I had was on halt and my family was under extreme anxiety and stress for the following days.
When it Struck
I was in my room constructing the order of my presentation when my worst fear came true; I started to experience covid-19 symptoms. What started out as a small headache turned into intense body aches, chills, and extreme nausea, and I automatically knew that I needed to be tested. After getting an uncomfortable covid-19 test, my suspicion was confirmed. I tested positive for covid-19 and the flu.
Decisions to make
While taking my flu medicine, drinking fluids, and taking immune system vitamins, I realized that I had a decision to make. I only had seven days until our presentation about adultism, so I had to ask myself, “Are you going to be able to do this?” In order to fully decide if I would be able to follow through with my plan of serving as a youth facilitator, I had to weigh the pros and cons of each choice. If I decided to resign, I wouldn’t have to worry about my health or if I would be effective in setting the tone, but if I decided to push through and plan for potential obstacles, I would be given the opportunity to influence adults’ decisions and in turn, change lives. It then became clear that the project I was co-constructing was way bigger than me or my group and that the chance to inform educators and help students was a priority.
Since I made the decision to persevere, I needed to do my research. My physician told me quarantine for 10-14 days and this wouldn’t be a problem because the presentation was virtual, so my next step would be researching what the seventh day, presentation day, would look like. Also, I decided to tell Maya about my diagnosis.
By the 4th day of my quarantine, I started to feel better, so it was time to get to work. I resumed my research about the school to prison pipeline and other common examples of adultism, got encouragement from my partner, and finalized many of my main points. I also began to research healthy ways to build up my immune system and gain energy.
As I was recovering, I also began to have many doubts about my effectiveness as a facilitator. This, in turn, evolved into anxiousness about my audience of adults. Would they be like my dad before I explained some examples of youth oppression? Would they shut my ideas down and blame my generation for the hurt we’ve felt? Would they even open their minds to the message we’re trying to convey?
The lingering doubts I felt began to fade as I increasingly got better health-wise and gained more clarity on how the workshop would go. The fact that I had a group of adults in my corner who helped whenever I needed it, challenged my thoughts, and promised to help the process go as smoothly as possible was just as amazing as my partner’s encouragement and willingness to collaborate.
When the party’s over
It was January 20th, the day of the workshop, and saying I had butterflies would be an understatement. I looked over my notes countless times while imagining how Maya’s part would go, and finally, it was time to present. The zoom called filled up with participants and I began to swell with confidence because I was prepared. After giving my piece of the presentation revolving around the definition of adultism, common examples of adultism, and my personal experiences, I began to relax and fully enjoy what was happening. Surprisingly, as we went into breakout rooms, all of my participants gave encouragement and had wonderful pieces of advice for the adults that oppressed them as children. The expectations I had couldn’t have been farther than the truth, and before I knew it, it was time to conclude.
Having covid-19 and giving a presentation wasn’t easy, but during this experience, I learned so much about myself. Yes, like everyone else, I have insecurities and imperfections, but my dedication and tenacity in the face of these circumstances is something I am proud of. Conducting the Adultism vs. Youth Voice workshop, as I expected, has given me many ideas to build upon, an experience of inclusion, and the tools needed to be a better leader. This experience was completely worth it!
Please join us for the remainder of our sliding scale BIPOC youth led workshops here.