YPP Network Description

The MacArthur Research Network on Youth and Participatory Politics (YPP) formed out of recognition that youth are critical to the future of democracy and that the digital age is introducing technological changes that are impacting how youth develop into informed, engaged, and effective actors.

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  • Foster Care’s Burn Book on Me

    by Paula


    What if strangers wrote about you for 20 years?

    I didn’t grow up like most kids. If I went to the doctor or dentist, I had to file paperwork. If I wanted to play sports, more paperwork. To travel, I needed to go to court to get permission from a judge, which led to more paperwork. I have 10 folders about two feet high of paperwork. That’s because I was raised in foster care. There’s paperwork for everything.  

    After 20 years in care, I emancipated at age 21. Now I’m working on a documentary about teens in the system and how adoption works. Filming the documentary made me curious about my life, which led me to want my foster-care court records.

    VIDEO: Watch the trailer for Noel’s documentary project, coming soon



    If you’re placed in foster care, every six months there’s at least one court hearing where adults check in, supposedly on your behalf. It’s also mandatory for strangers to visit you at least once a month so they can write a report for the judge who then determines your fate. These court hearings and visits generate a ton of paperwork regardless of how much time you’ve been in care.

    RELATED: A Journey Through Foster Care

    When I finally worked up the courage to get my court records, I called Ben, who was one of my lawyers (all kids in foster care have legal representation). In California, kids have a right to get their court records at the age of 12, but they rarely do. I don’t think a lot of kids actually know they have this right, and who knows if adults are properly and clearly explaining what court records are, why they’re important and who it affects.

    When I talked to my former lawyer, Ben, he told me that I had around 10 binders of paperwork and that it would take about two weeks for a legal secretary to make copies of everything for me. Then I learned it would take even more time because when I was in foster care, some of my family members were too, and for confidentiality reasons the legal secretary had to review everything and remove information about them from my records.

    RELATED: Listen to “Adult ISH,” YR Media’s podcast about being an “almost adult”

    The wait to get this redacted version of the truth was so painful and nerve-wracking. It’s what I imagine someone might feel like when they’re trying to figure out if they’re pregnant or not, or if they have an STD or not. That’s how intense it felt.

    After two weeks, I got a notification from Ben, telling me my court records were ready and that I could come pick them up. Going to San Jose to meet up with him felt like one of the longest drives ever. The moment I saw my records, I underestimated how heavy they’d be. When I lifted them, I felt the literal weight of my life in my hands. I thought to myself, “This is me.”

    Reading the records, I felt exposed in a cringy, involuntary way because the records are full of information I had no choice but to give.

    Having to open up to people against your own will is one of the most violating things that has ever been done to me. On top of it all, it seems like almost everyone in my life had conversations about me on the record but behind my back.

    RELATED: My Journey Through a Psych Ward

    As I read my documents, I felt confused and betrayed. At certain points, it was like I was reading fake news about my own life. At other points, it seemed adults put the blame on past-child me so they wouldn’t look bad. If I felt sad or angry or even lonely, somehow that was a sign there was something wrong with me, instead of what was happening to me. Reading the records, I understood the pain I felt as a child in a new way.

    Despite how hard it’s been, I can’t stress enough the importance of getting your court records. There’s something special about taking initiative, about being a detective of your own life. I wanted to reclaim something that’s mine. I knew little to nothing about my own origins. I met my biological mom when I was 14 and I never met my biological father or seven of my 11 siblings. Even though a lot was redacted, I still got information about these family members that I otherwise wouldn’t have had.

    Noel reads his court documents for the first time.

    When you leave foster care, you have a “termination” court hearing and sometimes you get a gift. At mine, I got a stupid $10 Jamba Juice card — I can’t even get a large with toppings! I’ve actually kept the card as a tragically hilarious parody of what a memento should be.

    But what if instead of lame gifts, kids were given their own court records, encouraging them to be more involved with how government works by starting with their own lives?

    In California, foster kids age out of the system at 21, and that moment can feel like a kind of divorce. But actually, it should be celebrated as a once-in-a-lifetime event, like a cotillion, a quinceanera or a sweet 16. The termination hearing is a book-end on a chapter of your life. It’s a bridge to becoming an official adult, a stepping stone from child to grown-up. And getting your court records at this hearing could become a new tradition, a way to embrace your past as a person in foster care and move on.

    Noel Anaya’s documentary project is part of an ongoing series about foster care that he has produced which includes a piece he wrote about navigating school and a radio story he made about emancipating on his own terms. The narrative continues as he journeys into his new, free life after foster care.
    The post Foster Care’s Burn Book on Me appeared first on YR Media.

  • Found Sounds Ep 3: Oakland Public Library

    by Pablo De La Hoya


    Clay Xavier and Oluwafemi take this episode of Found Sounds to a quiet place making a beat out of books, chairs and more of their surroundings in the Oakland Public Library.
    The post Found Sounds Ep 3: Oakland Public Library appeared first on YR Media.

  • What’s Keeping Native American Students Out of Higher Ed?

    by Shawn Wen


    I grew up on the Wind River Reservation, home to the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes in Wyoming. I’m also a recent graduate of the University of Wyoming. Since stepping on campus, I became aware that there are few Native Americans in higher education. So when I was asked by a professor to do a class presentation about the reservation where I grew up, nervously I agreed.

    After my speech, I asked my peers what questions they might have. Slowly, I heard two of my classmates beating on the desks in front of them like a drum, as if they were imitating a Native American drum circle. I watched as they became more confident, until they felt brazen enough to start doing the “Tomahawk Chop.” It’s a baseball chant popularized by the Atlanta Braves, a team that has faced criticism for its appropriation of Native American culture.

    I stood at the front of the class while they were chanting. I found it hard to speak up out of embarrassment and rage. I felt as if I was paraded out to be mocked because the professor did little to quell the two classmates and the laughter that ensued. Later that school year I went to the department head to tell them of the situation, to perhaps get some closure or recompense. I was met with an awkward laugh and no promise to do anything about the matter.

    I have heard many similar education stories from my Indigenous peers. Professors insinuate that the class is too hard for them. A student is told that she’s doing better than expected considering where she is from. These micro-aggressive blows to our sense of self remind us that we are lucky to be here and should be happy we are in college at all.

    The cap was beaded by Mikala SunRhodes for Lee “Giz” Tendor for his graduation. Photo Credit: Taylar Dawn StagnerLee “Giz” Tendor standing in front of the Eastern Shoshone Flag. Photo Credit: Taylar Dawn Stagner

    In 2017, only 27 percent of Native Americans had attained an associate’s degree or higher. That’s compared to 54 percent for white students, according to data from the Postsecondary National Policy Institute. And the participation of Native American students in higher education dropped from 23 percent in 2015-16 down to 19 percent in 2016-2017.

    My university, in particular, has a fraught relationship with Indigenous peoples from the Wind River Reservation. In 2015, high schoolers on a college visit were detained and searched while shopping at the campus bookstore. In 2017, a group of prospective students were brought to a musical that depicted Native Americans as evil. This treatment is reflected in the enrollment of Native American students, which in a student body of over 12,000, declined from 79 in 2015 down to 64 in 2017.

    The University of Wyoming is trying to address this. Training on discrimination and harassment prevention is now mandatory for all university faculty. This training will include education about micro-aggressions and racial bias. The university has also opened a Native American Research Center, where Native American students can gather to study, have meetings, and meet other students. The center is also home to a summer institute for Native American high schoolers, to help them envision college as a part of their future.

    While I enjoy the benefits of the Native American Research Center, I wish the rest of the campus was more educated about Native peoples. Many students at the University have not met or been around a Native. And, as a result, Indigenous students bear the brunt of their ignorance. I’ve been called a squaw. I have been asked if I scalp people in my free time. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard my people referred to as drunks. Yes, these are jokes, but these remarks are made at the expense of a marginalized people.

    When I think back on my classmates doing the “Tomahawk Chop,” I wish the professor had called out their racism. The administration should have heard my complaint with more than an uncomfortable laugh. I have worked hard to strengthen my voice, in the face of uncomfortable situations and racist remarks disguised as jokes. It seems ridiculous that this burden falls on me, an Indigenous student, rather than the university administration and faculty. But I push myself to speak up, in attempt to build a world where ridicule for my people isn’t the norm.

    This essay was produced in collaboration with Wyoming Public Media.
    The post What’s Keeping Native American Students Out of Higher Ed? appeared first on YR Media.

  • Meet The 22-Year-Old Fighting Mental Health Stigma

    by Nancy Deville


    Breyonna Pinkney struggled with mental health during her sophomore year of college at Howard University. Her struggle turned into triumph when she started her own non-profit that aims to tackle mental illness.

    The Pinkney Promise Foundation, which she founded in 2017, focuses on the importance of mental health awareness and creating a space for people, especially African Americans, to talk openly about their issues.

    The stigma behind mental illness is shifting, as celebrities like Adele, NBA player Demar DeRozan, and Beyoncé have opened up about their battles with depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. Their ability to talk about these problems has sparked debates on many different social platforms, but Pinkney, a Baltimore, Md. native, decided to go the extra mile and started her foundation in the Washington D.C. area.

    YR Media correspondent Nayo Campbell spoke with Pickney about how she is using her own battle with depression to shape the mental health conversation.

    Nayo Campbell: What is Pinkney Promise and how did you come up with the concept?

    Breyonna Pinkney: Pinkney Promise is a 501c3 non-profit organization for mental health awareness. We have different workshops, community services, and creative events that bring like-minded people together to teach them how to cope in a healthy way, while simultaneously teaching about mental health and finding their true purpose.

    A lot of people get mental health wellness and mental health illness confused, and my organization is to help others become aware of different mental illnesses and give them an outlet for them to express themselves.

    You mentioned that this came from your own personal experiences. Can you share your battle with mental health?

    My sophomore year of college, I faced depression. A lot of times, depression is taboo in the African-American community and we’re told to “man up” or “woman up” and handle your business. But there was a point in my life where I needed to deal with my emotions and find an outlet to cope.

    In 2009, I lost my mother, and I didn’t really heal from that, but I kind of buried that feeling of losing someone. I also had to deal with homelessness and many other traumatic events and instead of dealing with it, I compressed it inside. I had to learn how to find my escape. I was able to find my escape through writing. From my writing, more people were able to relate to me about their battles, and I was able to learn about other people’s escapes, which then started the foundation.

    What is your ultimate goal with Pinkney Promise?

    My ultimate goal with the foundation is to bring more awareness to mental health. I want people to experience these events and see what works for them. We have a variety of events from writing, painting, and panel discussions where professional mental-health psychologists come in and speak. I want to get to a point where I help as many people as possible, and they are able to figure out how to express their emotions in a healthy way.

    There is a lot of focus on mental health. Where do you want the conversation to go next?

    I want to see more people be proactive about bringing awareness and sharing their story. A few celebrities–like Big Sean and Michelle Williams–speak about mental health and their depression. But there are so many different artists and celebrities we look up to who understand this topic, and if they spoke on it, it would affect so many lives.

    But it will take a lot of time to break down that barrier and not appear as if we have it all together. It’s not the easiest to let people know your problems, but you have to conquer that and be able to talk about the places that you’ve been and how you got through it.

    Where do you see your non-profit organization in the next five years?

    In the next five years, I plan to have different programs at HBCUs around the country. I specifically want to target young adults in college. I came to college as an engineering major, I pledged Alpha Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, and sometimes you get to this period of accomplishment where people are proud of you and people don’t realize you are going through stuff.

    Mental health issues are super prevalent in college, but we tend to go to a happy hour or a party and we get to a place where we don’t tackle the issue. Therefore, I want to be able to bring this discussion up on numerous campuses in the future.
    The post Meet The 22-Year-Old Fighting Mental Health Stigma appeared first on YR Media.

  • Bay Word of the Day: Bappin

    by Maeven McGovern


    BAY WORD OF THE DAY, STARRING MONEY MAKA, IS A VIDEO SERIES BREAKING DOWN BAY AREA SLANG.
    The post Bay Word of the Day: Bappin appeared first on YR Media.

  • Thrifted! Ep 3: Notorious BIG “Hypnotize”

    by Maeven McGovern


    Bet you didn’t know Notorious BIG’s “Hypnotize” was inspired by Herb Alpert’s “Rise.”








    The post Thrifted! Ep 3: Notorious BIG “Hypnotize” appeared first on YR Media.

  • Playlist: Songs to Fall in Love to (in Spanish)

    by Rohit Reddy


    Some days it’s inevitable; we get a feeling in our gut that tells us we care about someone more than usual. My go-to to help myself deal with these feelings is the Spanish music I grew up with. There’s just something about music from my culture that speaks to me on more levels than any English song. These songs paint a picture with feelings rather than just telling me a story with words. Hopefully this playlist of classics takes you there.





    Buena Vista Social Club – Dos Gardenias





    Buena Vista Social Club is a group I grew up listening to every now and then at family gatherings. It wasn’t until I was older that their music really made sense to me, and I was finally able to appreciate the beauty of the group. Waking up to this song will put you in a mood for love.

    Julio Jaramillo – Nuestro Juramento





    Julio Jaramillo brings his rendition of a song by Benito de Jesús, a song about two passionate beings’ vows to always love each other.

    Joe Cuba Sextet – Mujer Divina





    Joe Cuba Sextet’s song reminds me of being a hot mess when I used to live in LA, riding around at night in the valley thinking about torn-up relationships. This is funny considering the entire song is about a woman of divine beauty.

    Eydie Gormé y Los Panchos – Sabor A Mi





    Eydie Gormé y Los Panchos blessed us with this song featuring flawless guitars and the dreamy sensation of love in its lyrics.

    Los Panchos – Sin Ti





    Los Panchos are a group of guitar players that my grandma used to listen to. I was sitting at the breakfast table while this song played one day and my grandma said to me (in Spanish) that this song reminds her of an old jealous boyfriend that left her alone at a party in Guatemala because she danced with one of his friends. That’s a story that makes me think of love and beauty like nothing else. This song’s name translates to “without you.”

    Vicente Garcia – Dulcito e Coco





    Vicente Garcia’s Dulcito e Coco is a beautiful blend of sounds and passion that puts me in my feelings every time.

    Devendra Banhart – Mi Negrita





    Devendra Banhart creates some beautiful music, and this song is no exception. I fasho cried to this song before, so listen to it and fall in love or sumn.

    Frankie Reyes – Flor de Azalea





    Frankie Reyes is a young person which is wild as hell considering this beautiful song full of lucious keys sounds like a dip back to the past. This track screams passion.

    Rodrigo Amarante – Tuyo





    Rodrigo Amarante’s amazing song about the perseverance to be someone’s world may also be featured in the TV show Narcos but that shouldn’t distract from its beauty. I can sing the whole thing to you in person if you wanna feel uncomfortable for no reason.

    Manu Chao – Me Gustas Tu





    Manu Chao is last but definitely not least as he brings us a song that sings of his longing for a special person, listing what he likes about this person, but not knowing what he will do about it. I grew up to this song and it definitely brings a lot of loving memories to me.



    I know that this is a pretty intense list. But I hope that you take the time to appreciate these songs, to see their individual beauty, and the power they have. Feel something!
    The post Playlist: Songs to Fall in Love to (in Spanish) appeared first on YR Media.

  • Playlist: Afrobeats/ Dancehall Selection

    by Rohit Reddy


    Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Nigerian music. Afrobeats/ Dancehall/Afropop have this complex quality of always keeping a dance groove while maintaining sad or cheerful melodies. Not to mention the romantic tones of it all, especially in the lyrics. Here are some songs I’ve been stuck on.





    Wizkid – Master Groove





    Wizkid is kinda like the Drake of this genre and gets some amazing production. Notice that the song is sorta melancholy but still has that upbeat groove. It’s crazy dope.

    Tekno – Pana





    Tekno produces his own songs and deserves mad respect, this is my favorite song by him.

    Olamide – First of All





    This song’s energy is crazy and makes me feel like whining a subway pole when I’ve got my headphones on so shout out to Olamide.

    Wande Coal & Dj Tunez – Iskaba





    This song is so positive and the video and vibes of it all just makes me happy, so big ups to Wande Coal for this magic right here.

    Dj Spinall & Wizkid – Nowo





    Dj Spinall is a crazy-good producer and so working with Wizkid is kinda like a home run for me.

    Falz – Jeje





    Falz is special because he kinda raps more than sings and he’s got bars, plus his voice is hella satisfying to hear.

    Orezi & Vanessa Mdee – Just Like Dat





    The energy in this track is insane, it’s a great addition to any good-ass day or even a party. I threw this in my Dj set one time and the groove was crazy.

    Tekno – Duro





    Here goes Tekno again with another hit describing how much he wants to show his love for this one girl. A king of romance.

    Tiwa Savage, Spellz & Wizkid – Ma Lo





    This right here is a great collab that just slaps, period.

    Mayorkun – Posh





    Another example of that upbeat yet kinda sad duality right here, Mayorkun brings us this tune that I’m sure a lot of people will end up slapping more than they realize at first.
    The post Playlist: Afrobeats/ Dancehall Selection appeared first on YR Media.

  • Special: Musician Snail Mail

    by Davey Kim


    Indie-rock star Snail Mail recants her hate for Crunchwrap Supremes and talks about her diss track Heat Wave.



    Rolling Stone, NPR, and Stereo Gum have raved about indie-rock breakout artist Snail Mail (Lindsey Jordan). Her latest album Lush is being called one of the best albums of 2018. But apparently, Lindsey hates Taco Bell’s Crunchwrap Supreme and knows a thing or three about partying at “cool” bars, even though she is 19. YR Media’s Merk Nguyen and Nyge Turner confront Lindsey on these bold claims.

    This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Check out the full conversation on YR Media’s Adult ISH podcast (episode 4 – Pro ISH).

    Nyge: I’m going to ask you probably the most important question of this interview…You had some people pretty upset here in the office about some comments that you made about a Taco Bell classic. You said, “F*ck Crunchwrap Supremes.” What’s up with that?

    Lindsey: I guess that was a little bit of an overreaction for me — I retract that. My band loves Taco Bell and I just can’t eat it on the road.



    Nyge: So what really inspired you to write Heat Wave?

    Lindsey: That song is just like so specifically about a breakup that I had. I wrote it two weeks after and if you were to consult my friends at home, it is obvious who I’m talking about. It is like a snail mail diss track. I’ve since never written a song in that way and probably never will. I remember coming up with parts of it [while] fully clothed, sitting in my bathtub with no water in it.





    Merk: So in the guitar-driven song Pristine, you’re singing about love and toward the end, you’re talking about some party we weren’t invited to…#TFTI Lindsey. It seems like there’s a story to this song…

    Lindsey: It’s like a little ode to the monotony of adolescence and just being bored and sort of lovesick. It’s kind of like a sick joke and I’m making fun of myself. Obviously, I’m aware of the fact that falling in and out of love at 17 is going to happen. But it’s a really good reflection of exactly who I was at that time. I was stuck in high school and I was just partying all the time and having a hard time appreciating the simple aspects of life, which I now really love. I love being bored, going to parties, seeing my friends from home, and just sitting around.

    It’s kind of like a sick joke and I’m kind of making fun of myself. Obviously, I’m aware of the fact that falling in and out of love at 17 is obviously going to happen. But it’s a really good reflection of exactly who I was at that time. 

    Nyge: What is a Snail Mail party like?

    Lindsey: I think my ideal party would be at a cool bar, but not the kind of bar that industry people take you to. Like a bar that’s cheap and trashy. No jerks allowed. Just a place with late-night tacos and free drinks.

    Merk:  So correct me if I’m wrong on this, but I read on some YouTube comment that one of your favorite songs is Let’s Find An Out?Davey, our boss, says that this is one of his favorite songs because of the subtle yet complex guitar fingerpicking. Why is it your favorite?





    Lindsey: It kind of came out of nowhere for me. Usually Snail Mail songs take a lot of planning and that song was just the most organic thing I’ve ever written. The meaning is also really personal to me and it’s not really as straightforward as the other ones. The guitar work is the kind of song I’ve wanted to make for a while, but didn’t really know where it would fit on the record.

    Nyge: I’m curious: what was your first song like?

    Lindsey: It was the song Pieces Of Me by Ashlee Simpson, but just different words. I think that might have been my first ever song [when I was around 7 years old]. I think I changed a couple lyrics…I never even realized that is what I was ripping off until a couple years later. I think the song was about waiting around for my friend to sleep over.

    Merk: That’s a good one. That was the question back in the day. You just would never know.

    Lindsey: Like are they going to come sleep over? Am I going to have to clean my room? Or am I just going to wait?
    The post Special: Musician Snail Mail appeared first on YR Media.

  • Remix Your Life Artist Spotlight: Stoney

    by Maeven McGovern


    The RYL Spotlight Series highlights the artists and producers featured on the Remix Your Life mixtape — available everywhere Jan 2019.
    The post Remix Your Life Artist Spotlight: Stoney appeared first on YR Media.

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