Tokenism: The State of Youth Leadership in Philadelphia

By Deszeree Thomas, Generocity | March 28, 2023

Our youth partners at the Young Artist Program, Juvenile Law Center, and Youth Art & Self-Empowerment Project—alongside many others—recently spoke to Generocity about the state of youth leadership in Philadelphia.

James Baldwin’s quote, “Our crown has already been bought and paid for. All we have to do is wear it” was interpreted by Shaiheed Days, Youth Move Philadelphia Coordinator, as “Our experience is already, you know. They’ve already spoken for themselves that we were the ones for folks to listen to.”

The City of Philadelphia is home to 485,731 individuals 24 years of age or younger.  This is one of the largest population groups representing 31% of the citizens in Philadelphia. The risks and the stressors being an individual 24 years of age or younger in the City of Philadelphia are significant. For example, in 2022 being 24 and under accounted for 35% of the 472 gun fatalities and 40% of the 1789 non-fatal gun injuries.  However, despite organized efforts by youth leaders, they have very little power, participation in local decision making and inconsistent influence on the things that matter to them, and issues and systems impacting their lives.

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