We Are the Youth


We are the youth and we should know

we want things to be more than now.

A knowledge sleeps in the cracks of our knuckles

and the straightness of our backs

not just

that things must change,

but a knowledge of solutions better than useless resolutions.


We should not

be satisfied with our elders

resting at their desk chairs

sipping their cup of steaming morning headlines

of death, disease, inaction.


They sip and they ponder

the power of resilience:

It is incredible how strong people can be

how they can bounce

like rubber balls

from the depths of suffering and inhumanity

but resilience is not enough.

Resilience can also breed satisfaction with the status quo—

and we are the youth!

We aren’t supposed to be satisfied!

We can rebel all we want

with sexdrugsandrockandroll

but we must see that that is not enough.


We can’t be satisfied anymore.

We are a generation


with curiosity and possibility.

We may be young, but

we are the grown-ups now

we are responsible for the problems we see

whether we made them or not:

and it is time to change those headlines.


Our burning words must do the fighting now

our singing hands must mold knowledge into

movements more than picketing and reform

            before these injustices bury us

our rebelling minds (not just bodies)

must be open to more ways of change than one

our hearts must be strong enough

to understand those who work with us

and those who work against us.


We can let empathy and books spread like callow wildfire

but it won’t mean anything

unless we make it known that we


with the way things are

and we


be heard.


What will we say with what we know?

How will we strike down

exploitation and despair and corruption and oppression

with these minds of ours?

We saw how changing things with death

changes nothing

        (guns need more guns

        attacks beget counter-attacks

        hate makes hate)—

but apathy also fosters apathy!


What will our children say

when they are the youth

if they find that

in the face of all this shit

we did nothing

when our brains burst with the creativity and imagination

our elders lacked

we did nothing?


Could we live with ourselves,

remembering how our blood coursed thick and strong,

            hands clenched throats tightened

            cheeks roaringly aflame insides shaking shaking

but did not rise from this collective anger

to harness it

into words and forces

more powerful than those that suppressed it?


Will we be brave enough to recognize

that our liberations

are tied up with one another;

and there is no way we can keep listening

            instead of shouting our truth

no way we can stay sitting

            instead of standing our ground

no way we can remain uncaring and uninvolved

when it has never been more clear that our lives

are so intricately bound to one another,

the knots impossible to sever

—will we have the courage

to say we see it

while the fire of this recognition

engulfs our flickering hearts?


Gianna Maita

I wrote this poem while studying abroad in South Africa, when I noticed that many of our American social problems are similar to those in South Africa, though in a different context. Surrounded by American and South African youth, I felt inspired by all we had the power to do and frustrated by the pace of positive socio-economic and political change in the United States.

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