Understanding Youth Culture
This journal has been created in an effort to better understand urban youth and the culture that has developed for young people living in our communities since the industrial age. It is of utmost importance that we first realize the need to include "urban youth" in positive youth development efforts and initiatives. Far too often, "urban youth" are defined by terms associated with criminality and juvenile delinquency, thereby establishing far more often than not a self-fulfilling prophecy where these young people are concerned.
As society passed into the new millennium and technology reached new heights, many in society remain fixated on a simpler time, a time when many children and young people were typically protected based on their community and/or neighborhood. Once upon a time not so many years ago, a parent raising children in suburban communities was relatively assured that their children would be safe from what they considered "bad influences." Today this is not true. Today urban youth culture is the dominating force in the life of most young people and this is not only true throughout the United States; it is true throughout the world.
The power of youth culture
For those who would dispute this statement, I suggest that you take a close look at fashion trends, automotive design, movie and television programming, video games and sports, magazine publications and advertising and, last but not least, music. Urban youth culture represents billions of dollars in numerous industries and it shows no slowing in its growth and influence. Some of the fastest-growing magazines in the world today are The Source, Vibe, XXL, Gear and Murder Dog. One of the top performers in the world is Marshall Mathers, better known as Eminem, a young Caucasian man from the metropolitan Detroit area, notorious for his misogynistic and often violent lyrical content, as well as his unabashed denouncement of his mother (and frequently his wife). Today one of the most successful programs on television is 106 & Park, a program on BET (Black Entertainment Television) with a "hip-hop" format.
Many of you will likely argue the merits of the statements made here, but they are not just my opinion, they are researched and documented facts. Whenever I am challenged about the power of youth culture, I point to an incident not too many years ago when then Democratic Presidential nominee, William "Bill" Clinton, made an appearance on MTV with his funky saxophone… the former President of the United States understood the power of youth culture.
In Detroit, another politician made history by appealing to youth culture, to urban youth culture. Mayor of Detroit Kwame Kilpatrick was recently elected to the office of Mayor for this large city by appealing to young people. As was noted time and again by citizens interviewed by the media after his election, children and young people not yet of voting age influenced their parent's decision at the polls.
Many scoffed at the Source Foundation not long ago when they warned America that despite what the establishment (traditional American's) thought, they (the hip-hop based community) had more influence over young people than traditional institutions such as churches, schools, and even families. After years of research and working closely with youth throughout the world, I agree. In all honesty, the challenge from the Source Foundation and what I deem as "new school" youth inspired this journal. I believe that exploring urban youth and youth culture and attempting to understand the minds and thoughts of our young people offer a window of opportunity for a new paradigm.
Reprinted with the permission of the Journal of Urban Youth Culture.