The Youth Moves

by Gen Rollins

Sometimes the sharpest minds are in the youngest people. Philadelphia’s own POPPYN has come together to form a united front of youth, bringing knowledge to the public. POPPYN stands for Presenting Our Perspectives on Philadelphia Youth News; an incredible group comprised of a diverse range of students, educators, and community members.

POPPYN recently came out with their twenty-third episode, which premiered at Temple University. The news network tackles many issues relevant to Philadelphia youth, such as first-time voting, challenges of living in foster care, minimum wage battles, and in their most recent episode—environmental justice. This episode was particularly moving, featuring representatives from NODAPL, YouthBuild Philly, Youth for Change, Rebel Ventures, VietLEAD and the Philly Green Party. The intention of POPPYN is to put young Philadelphians on the forefront of current events, allowing young people to build skills and confidence that will remain with them for life. You can see how effective the network has been, by display of these amazing young reporters and their journalistic talents.

Kayla Watkins, event facilitator and member of the media team, spoke on the relevance of environmental justice to youth of color. She stated, “...this isn’t just an old white hippie problem. This is important to me!” Kayla's statement resonated throughout the room, paying heed to issues of representation particular to the field of environmental justice, which has long been comprised of and for the white and wealthy. From the John Muir trails, to the John Lennon’s of the world, celebritization of white environmental activists, dreamers, and self-aggrandized explorers, has been limiting the way in which we see ourselves in these movements.

POPPYN is here to dispel the myth! Philly is bustling with environmental activists from all different backgrounds. People in the communities of Philadelphia are very aware of the circumstances which affect them, and seek to change their environments for the better. POPPYN reporter, Adrianna, explains that environmental issues are not simply limited to far-off landscapes facing mountain-top removal, or dire climate changes. Adrianna summarizes the concerns of local Philadelphians in their fight for, “clean water in their schools, clean air in their communities, and access to quality land and healthy food.” These topics are all too often left out of the environmental conversation, but the youth movements pushing that change are already affecting us from the ground up.

As we see booming throughout Philadelphia, leaders of color have long been putting the work in for their communities. POPPYN is giving voice to those leaders while creating new ones. The youth members of POPPYN disarm old traditions of misinformation to reveal the thriving efforts of communities of color. In cohesion with the aforementioned local organizations, POPPYN has created change through town hall meetings for clean water rights, connected with traditional food practices at VietLEAD’s Têt celebration, participated in environmentally sound building construction with YouthBuild Philly, and exposed the truth about what it means to be black or brown in this nation: it means that you can do great things. Be sure to check out POPPYN’s Youtube page, and follow them as they journey into understanding gentrification in Philadelphia.