Youth Activist Leads the Charge for Education Equality in Detroit, Michigan

16-year old Tarius Porter embraces peaceful protest and the right to check the government

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Time and time again the younger generation has proven themselves to be worthwhile candidates for a new era of Civil Rights leaders, productively forcing change via protest. 16-year old Detroit native Tarius Porter knows that saying black lives matter isn’t about proving that black lives matter more– it’s about reminding the world that these lives still matter.

Porter is young and brilliant, hailed as a significant part of the awakening generation of young black activists who are trying to find their voices and challenge the systematic injustice common in urban America. “They look at me like they got these ideas, ‘He ain’t nothing. He’s about to steal. He’s about to rob,’ Porter said of himself. “But when I speak and they start seeing I’m saying powerful stuff, then next time they see someone with the same clothes on they won’t think the same thing.”

Porter is a junior at Detroit Communication and Media Arts High School. Seniors recently planned to walk out of class to support teachers who’d been calling in sick for weeks as a protest towards the poor conditions inside Detroit Public Schools. Porter was the only student in his class to walk out, owning the power he has in protest. He is not the only one: Detroit has seen a surge in student activism, and the unified voice of these students express their right to up-to-date school books and technology that will allow competition in the real world.

“People quickly realized that it is not just about DPS, that it’s more importantly about oppression. And that oppression is people of color who aren’t receiving commodities they deserve, such as basic education,” Porter said. “We live in the United States of America, more specifically, in Detroit, Michigan. And how can we be denied an education that’s adequate?”

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Porter’s words are not new information: since the state takeover in 2009, student enrollment has fallen from 95,000 to 46,000. Almost 100 schools have closed and the district is more than half a billion dollars in debt. The schools that are still open are falling apart: building inspections have revealed collapsed ceilings, rodent infestations, and actual mushrooms growing on the walls.

This district has clearly failed Detroit students. Porter firmly believes, “It is our responsibility to challenge the government when they are doing something unfair. We are obligated to check the governing body because we are giving up freedoms for them. It is an exchange and if they are not holding up their end of the deal, we have to check them – and I think that’s what we’re doing.” From Sandford, Florida, where Trayvon Martin was killed to Ferguson, Missouri where Michael Brown was murdered, youth protests have proliferated across the nation. These kids who’re coming from a background where they have nothing are becoming just as empowered as kids fortunate enough to have the world at their feet.

Social media continues to play a predominant role in the force of youth protest. #IStandWithDPS reveals that Detroit students are receiving support from around the world. The protests so far have remained peaceful and the students expect to continue such protests until more change comes than the resignation of the district’s emergency manager. These kids are fighting for their futures and they refuse to quit until they see change.

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