"What gives you hope?” Ten years ago, within a week of each other, Eli Wiesel at Princeton University and the Dalai Lama at Rutgers University responded to this exact question with the identical answer: “Young people!” That has stuck with me all these years. At the time I was a little annoyed as their response seemed to remove responsibility from those of us no longer young, yet still working for change. Recently I have every reason to be hopeful based on young members of our community I met through Not in Our Town, a Princeton-based grass roots group committed to racial justice.

Ziad Ahmed, a Princeton Day School junior, started Redefy, an organization committed to countering stereotypes, and on Sunday, December 13, at Princeton University’s Carl Fields Center, Redefy will host a day-long program, #TheGenerationofNow. The event will focus on racial justice and the goal is to inspire teenagers and community members to become engaged in social justice work.

Winona Guo and Priya Vulchi are Princeton High juniors, and founders of Choose, an advocacy effort to “overcome racism and inspire harmony through exposure, education, and empowerment.” In their “Engage” program, working with school administrators and faculty, they are organizing the many personal stories they have collected so that teachers can use them in the classroom to bring up the issues of race, racism, and racial justice.

Tatianna Sims, a 2015 Princeton High graduate, winner of a Princeton Prize in Race Relations and a Not in Our Town Unity Award, recently spearheaded a Unity Walk and discussion. With the help of her student committee (and some support from the older generation) the event exemplified her mission of bringing people together to support youth, particularly those who feel disconnected from our community.

More than 100 adults and youth, including political, community, and student leaders of all backgrounds, walked and talked. Adults spoke about the importance of their own mentors; students spoke about the need to reduce stereotyping and wondered how they could be advocates for their peers. The panelists ranged from the first African American Princeton mayor Jim Floyd, in his 90s, to Princeton High School student leaders.

So what gives me hope? Young people AND not so young, in partnership!

Wilma Solomon


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