Youth organizers staged a ‘funeral’ procession for youth jobs in downtown Boston last week to criticize the lack of significant funding increases in the city’s budget for summer and year-round employment — a flatline that they said reflected misplaced priorities on the part of City Hall when compared to increases in the city’s police budget.
“We’re not getting enough youth jobs, and we’re getting a lot of youth violence,” said Peaches Perez, an organizer with the convening group, Youth Justice and Power Union. “So [the ‘funeral’] is to symbolize both the loss of youth jobs and the youth we’ve lost.”
The group issued a statement before the march that contrasted the funding for the two city departments, both of which come in direct contact with many of the city’s young people.
“In the fight for youth jobs and liberation, police have never been the solution to our communities’ problems and never will be,” the statement said. “City-funded youth jobs levels have been frozen for the past five years, while the police budget has continued to rise, showing that the City prioritizes investing in a department that hurts and arrests young people over opportunities for young people to be leaders.”
The group says the funding for the SuccessLink youth jobs program (previously the Boston Youth Fund’s HOPELINE) has not been increased in a substantive way in five years. The YJPU group is calling for an increase in the city’s youth jobs budget to $9.6 million.
An organizer with the group clarified in an email to the Banner that while there has been one recent increase in funding, it went to cover the increase in the state’s minimum wage, rather than expanding the number of jobs available which the group seeks.
The BYF has provided employment opportunities for Boston youth at non-profit organizations across the city for more than twenty years. It is managed under the city’s Department of Youth Engagement and Employment.
YJPU led a group of about one hundred young people and youth advocates from Park Street station through the streets of downtown, ending at City Hall. They walked in silence with mock caskets painted with the words “RIP Youth Jobs” and signs calling for more investment in youth programs.
At City Hall, they split into two groups. The first staged a sit-in outside the building for five minutes to symbolize the five years without a funding increase, while the second went to Mayor Martin Walsh’s office and staged a similar sit-in. Because it was close to 5:00 on Wednesday, the sit-in did not disrupt much foot traffic except for a few city staff members leaving the office for the day.
In addition to the funding issue, youth organizers also want the age range for SuccessLink expanded to cover 14- to 19-year-olds. Mayor Walsh previously expanded the program’s eligibility to include 18-year-olds.
Contract for youth
The group points to a contract that Mayor Walsh signed during his campaign at a youth forum on October 16, 2013 that included commitments similar to what they are pushing for now. These include the age expansion and a request for increased funding that would generate 5,000 summer jobs. The group told the Banner that they wanted the 5,000 jobs to come from city funding in addition to the roughly 6,000 private sector jobs that the city coordinates through public-private partnerships.