Picture this: 131 young people, 13 to 26 years old, from 37 countries—youth activists from around the globe— students, writers, poets, marchers, community leaders all gathered together in San Juan, Puerto Rico in August 2019, the week after the scandal-ridden government of Governor Ricardo Rosselló fell. A government brought down in large measure because of the resolve and activism of young people across the Hurricane Maria-battered island.
This wasn’t part of the plan for the second meeting of the International Congress of Youth Voices. It was pure coincidence. But here they all are, coming from across the planet—jet lagged and lit from within—to learn from one another and an array of artists, writers and activists, to create a network, to tell their stories, to listen and to understand the forces that led this island to erupt.
Politics of the world affect young people as much as anyone else, and they have little to no voice as major decisions are made. The International Congress of Youth Voices was founded as a means to amplify their ideas and energy and to unite young people for a weekend of collaboration.
The International Congress of Youth Voices, founded by author Dave Eggers (co-founder of 826 National) and nonprofit leader Amanda Uhle, gathers the world’s most inspiring teen writers and activists. They come from all over the world, including: Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, the US, Colombia, Guatemala, Cuba, Australia, Denmark, Nepal, Russia, England, Thailand, South Africa, Ireland, Canada, Uganda, Pakistan, Burundi, France, India, and Puerto Rico.
Student delegates are chosen based on their commitment to leadership and social justice and their passion and eloquence as writers. The event is designed to provide a path to leadership for all delegates and represents a continuum from students who have exhibited potential in local writing and tutoring programs to writers and activists who have already made notable achievements at a very young age.
Youth on Fire: The International Congress of Youth Voices was produced by The Kitchen Sisters (Davia Nelson & Nikki Silva) in collaboration with Nathan Dalton, Brandi Howell, Rachel Templeton & Teddy Alexander. Mixed by Jim McKee. Story Intern: Jonathan Hsieh. Special thanks to Dave Eggers & Amanda Uhle and to all the delegates from around the country and around the world who came to Puerto Rico and shared their stories with us. Check out more on our new social media series #YouthOnFire.
This story begins our new series Youth on Fire, stories of young activists and visionaries from around the world. We would love to hear from you if you are or if you know one. Podcasts, social media, poetry, playlists, manifestos… let us know what you’re doing. You can reach us @kitchensisters on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and at kitchensisters.org.
The Kitchen Sisters Present is part of the Radiotopia podcast network from PRX. Thanks to Sakara for sponsoring this episode.
Funding for work of The Kitchen Sisters comes from The National Endowment for the Humanities, The Robert Sillins Family Foundation, The TRA Fund supporting our Intern Program, and Listener Contributions to The Kitchen Sisters Productions.