PERSONAL
09/07/2020 06:00 BST | Updated 09/07/2020 13:51 BST

Black Teens Like Me Have The Future In Our Hands. Here’s What We Must Do With It

It’s up to my generation, who have grown up in an age of crisis, to rethink and reshape the world – and make sure Black lives matter.

The future belongs to today’s youth. 

From the climate crisis to the economy, my generation will shape, rethink and reimagine the future. Black teenagers like me will have to shape an agenda of environmental, economic and racial justice to build a society where everyday in the workplace, in schools and in the criminal justice system Black lives are treated like they matter. This is how we can achieve that goal.

The systemic racism that afflicts British society is largely invisible to those who don’t sit at the sharp end of it. Some high profile cases of police brutality are well-known, like those of  Edson Da Costa, Rashan Charles or Mark Duggan – powerful human stories of loss to police violence highlight how Black people are twice as likely to die in police custody as white people. But still other, less visible injustices, ruin and cut short the lives of Black people everyday.

Take climate change. It’s widely unknown that most air pollution deaths happen in the UK’s most diverse communitiesTake education. Black pupils are consistently the most underpredicted group in a-level and GCSE examsTake healthcare. Black women are five times more likely to die during childbirth than white women.

The misery and suffering caused by these injustices is very tangible and real but, unlike police brutality, they don’t attract press or have recognisable victims. But still it’s vital we tackle them.

A new future is on its way, and my generation, building on the victories of our elders and correcting their mistakes, are paving the path for progress

I believe the most powerful and impactful change happens on two levels: work done within communities to deal with specific needs and issues, and wider mass societal change which address the root causes of injustice. Black community groups are doing brilliant work today to deliver mentorship, food, education and other needs to our community. But still wider societal change is needed to end the cycle of injustice these community groups are having to deal with, often with stretched resources. 

The Black Lives Matter movement is overwhelmingly grassroots and activist-driven. For good reason some issues, like decolonising the curriculum, must be grassroots led to properly reflect the change needed. But still it’s time to create new alliances for progressive change around issues which affect communities in every corner of the country. 

Take austerity. It’s caused homelessness, child poverty and destroyed youth services all across the country, from ethnically diverse inner-city London to the left-behind coastal areas. On big structural issues like austerity it’s important to build cross-community alliances to fight for substantial political change.  

We’ve grown up in an age of crisis where social media has made crystal clear the injustices that plague communities both here in the UK and across the world.

Wider societal change is the key to dealing with the root causes of injustice which Black people disproportionately face. Race worsens already broken systems. A broken criminal justice system that views punishment as a way of dealing with social issues rooted in inequality and poverty, worsened by systemic racism means we Black people make up only 3% of the population but 12% of those incarcerated. Mentoring and tutoring programs can foster academic ability amongst young Black people, but without major reform and transformation to our education system we’ll continue to be underpredicted and denied opportunity as a result. It’s the same with the air pollution that disproportionately impacts ethnic minority communities as a result of inaction over the climate crisis. Action on the root causes is needed. 

A new future is on its way, and my generation, building on the victories of our elders and correcting their mistakes, are paving the path for progress. We’re hyper-politicised. We’ve grown up in an age of crisis where social media has made crystal clear the injustices that plague communities both here in the UK and across the world. We’ve seen economic injustice growing up in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis and seeing falling living standards. We’ve seen environmental injustice, as despite the looming existential threat of climate change our politicians fail to act. More are seeing racial injustice that many turned a blind eye to. And we’re not passive.

The time when we can vote is fast approaching – so is the time when we’ll hold positions of power. We’ll challenge injustice. Hold the powerful to account. Build new systems based on the principles of equality and justice. 

Athian Akec is the Youth MP for Camden and an activist on knife crime, systemic racism and inequality and ambassador for The Good Business Festival

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