We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

We Fight To Win

Inequality and the Politics of Youth Activism

Hava Rachel Gordon

Publication Year: 2010

In an adult-dominated society, teenagers are often shut out of participation in politics. We Fight to Win offers a compelling account of young people's attempts to get involved in community politics, and documents the battles waged to form youth movements and create social change in schools and neighborhoods.Hava Rachel Gordon compares the struggles and successes of two very different youth movements: a mostly white, middle-class youth activist network in Portland, Oregon, and a working-class network of minority youth in Oakland, California. She examines how these young activists navigate schools, families, community organizations, and the mainstream media, and employ a variety of strategies to make their voices heard on some of today's most pressing issuesùwar, school funding, the environmental crisis, the prison industrial complex, standardized testing, corporate accountability, and educational reform. We Fight to Win is one of the first books to focus on adolescence and political action and deftly explore the ways that the politics of youth activism are structured by age inequality as well as race, class, and gender.

Published by: Rutgers University Press

Series: Series in Childhood Studies


pdf iconDownload PDF (16.3 KB)
pp. v

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (39.4 KB)
pp. vii-ix

First and foremost, I would like to thank Youth Power and Students Rise Up, two teen activist networks who granted me access to youth movements and to the lives of adolescent political organizers. The youth activists and adult allies who I came to know during this experience have changed me forever. They are among the most gifted educators I have ever met....

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (79.1 KB)
pp. 1-17

In February of 2003, mainstream media outlets covered the massive and simultaneous antiwar protests that shook hundreds of cities across the world. Activists from almost every corner of the earth marched in the streets, numbering in the millions, to protest the impending invasion of Iraq. Although the sixties are often identified as an apex of political...

read more

1: The Development of Urban Teenage Activism: Opportunities and Challenges at the Turn of the Millennium

pdf iconDownload PDF (154.8 KB)
pp. 18-59

One day, sixteen-year-old YP student organizer Salvador and I roamed around East Oakland on city bus after city bus, trying to find local restaurants that might be willing to donate food to Youth Power. That day, Salvador told me this story of his lone attempt to access the highest executive power in the United States:...

read more

2: Reading, Writing, and Radicalism: The Politics of Youth Activism on School Grounds

pdf iconDownload PDF (140.4 KB)
pp. 60-97

What happens when youth try to tackle social justice issues and organize other students on school territory? Before SRU and YP youth activists eventually coalesced with larger social movements in their communities, they first attempted to politicize the social and academic elements of their schools. Just as labor activists start organizing in their workplaces, youth...

read more

3: Allies Within and Without: Navigating the Terrain of Adult-Dominated Community Politics

pdf iconDownload PDF (122.7 KB)
pp. 98-132

When students begin to organize beyond their schools and in their larger communities, they struggle to find their place in local social movements. In doing so, they reflect on their unique position as youth in adult-dominated community politics and develop politicized frameworks for understanding ageism. Both YP and SRU organized outside of schools because, first and...

read more

4: Toward Youth Political Power in Oakland: The Adult Gaze, Academic Achievement, and the Struggle for Political Legitimacy

pdf iconDownload PDF (104.7 KB)
pp. 133-154

I am attending a YP weekend retreat in a large, log cabin in the woods about seventy miles outside of Oakland. We have been driving in vans for hours just to get here, crisscrossing freeways and negotiating the tangled mess of stop-and-go traffic rushing in and out of the Bay Area. Finally, the cityscapes give way to rolling hills, and we arrive. The students are giddy...

read more

5: Toward Youth Political Power in Portland: The Adult Gaze, Mainstream Media, and the Problems of Social Visibility

pdf iconDownload PDF (98.8 KB)
pp. 155-175

It was not lost on SRU youth that there were moments of irony about the adult gaze, which filtered through adult-dominated media, schools, police, and even social movement networks. Although these activists often criticized this gaze for infantilizing them as serious organizers and dismissing their political aims and capabilities, they also noticed that this infantilization...

read more

6: Gendering Political Power: Gender Politics in Youth Activist Networks

pdf iconDownload PDF (105.4 KB)
pp. 176-198

By the early summer of 2003, the SRU network had begun to fracture because of internal struggles over how to project the groups’ aims, identity, and political visions to multiple adult publics. This struggle was due in large part to these young activists’ overreliance on mainstream media, whose contours refused to recognize their political outrage or their critique...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (71.4 KB)
pp. 199-211

In the two years I spent with YP and SRU activists, I witnessed their challenges, successes, and defeats. Anchored in larger historical and contemporary movements, YP organizers in Oakland fundamentally changed their school landscapes: at some schools they successfully instituted youth centers that provided a proyouth, empowering respite from their defeating...

read more

Appendix: Entering the Worlds of Youth Activism

pdf iconDownload PDF (55.1 KB)
pp. 213-223

I first came across Students Rise Up on a rainy October day in 2002, at one of the first of many peace rallies before the start of the war in Iraq the following March. Gathered with hundreds of people in Pioneer Courthouse Square in the center of Downtown Portland, SRU teens huddled under a huge banner that read, “Students Rise Up.” I approached one of them, Curt, a tall guy with long hair. I explained to him that I...


pdf iconDownload PDF (61.8 KB)
pp. 225-234


pdf iconDownload PDF (62.2 KB)
pp. 235-244


pdf iconDownload PDF (93.4 KB)
pp. 245-254

E-ISBN-13: 9780813548272
E-ISBN-10: 0813548276
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813546698
Print-ISBN-10: 0813546699

Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: Series in Childhood Studies