Follow Groundwork on Facebook or Twitter and you could win a Valentine’s gift: On February 14, we’ll randomly select a total of fourteen Facebook and Twitter followers to receive a free copy of Local Heroes Changing America, a book from the major CDS project “Indivisible,” in which photographers, radio producers, and folklorists explored life in twelve America communities. Three of the six Groundwork stories return to places and initiatives featured in that project. Local Heroes features the work of world-renowned photographers Bill Burke, Lynn Davis, Lauren Greenfield, Reagan Louie, Danny Lyon, Sylvia Plachy, and Eli Reed, and includes a CD of first-person narratives.
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has awarded the Center for Documentary Studies a $140,000 media grant in support of Groundwork, a radio documentary series telling close-up, on-the-ground stories of American democracy in action at the local level, stories that resonate with larger national issues of critical importance to all Americans but which Washington is failing to adequately address: energy, immigration, environment, citizen involvement in government spending, civil rights, and the future of U.S. democracy. John Biewen, audio director at CDS, will be the series producer. Along with the audio documentaries, which will air in late spring 2012 and again as a one-hour program in summer 2012, there will be a website with audio and video from the six locations featured in Groundwork.
Mural facing downtown’s City Hall, Occupy LA. Photo by Aymae Sulick.
by Karen Michel
Doing my preliminary research and first batch of interviews about youth and civic engagement, I’m struck by the agreement on the issues across ideologies.
Studies by PEW, the Young Invincibles, DEMOS and others show a decline in the probability of voting between the last presidential election and the next. These studies show that political engagement of any kind is linked to having at least some college education. For those who’ve gone to college, student debt and the difficulty of finding employment, rate high on the list of issues.
Debt and jobs: pretty key to future, to survival, to doing more than scratch through existence.
The Students for Liberty Regional Conference at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California was populated with young men in suits and ties and dress shirts (a couple of them with French cuffs) and impeccable grooming and women in dresses and pantyhose and hairstyles of another era. The first speaker, a man – as were nearly all of the speakers – espoused legalizing drugs. A self-avowed “square,” his position didn’t come from having been a stoner in college, but from his Libertarian, liberty equals everyone can do what they want as long as it doesn’t harm anyone else, viewpoint. His speech was well received, though it wasn’t until I went to downtown Los Angeles, to the Occupy LA encampment behind City Hall, that I smelled the “liberating” scent.
Stephanie, a blonde-haired, skirt-wearing (but bare-legged) young woman walking her yellow dog was the first person I met at Occupy LA. When I asked her what the issues were, her first response was the legalization of marijuana. Here, liberty meant the same thing, though I’d overheard participants at Students for Liberty disparage those occupiers.
Same-sex marriage was another issue where both groups agreed. The two self-identified Socialist students I spoke with at USC were in accord on those issues, too.
And here’s the scary part: very few of the young folks I interviewed (18-29) were sure they’d be voting in the next election. There was a disconnect between voting and political impact. What I’m seeing, tentatively: an end to two-party (or even three-party) politics. We may be in a post-party-partisan world – where issues unite, while parties continue to divide.
Stay tuned. Next trip to Los Angeles: high schoolers and community college students.