Why the Generation Awards?

Kierra Johnson explains why a new generation of activists deserve to be recognized and appreciated alongside the long-standing, established advocates who serve as mentors as allies.

Editor’s Note: Each year, Choice USA honors the achievements of young women and men working towards reproductive justice through their “Generation Awards.”

In a time when there are all kinds of awards for all types of achievements, the question ‘why another awards event?' is an honest and timely one. Over the last couple of elections young people have come to be recognized as a viable voting bloc, a constituency to be targeted by electoral campaigns as well as by issue and advocacy groups. However, in 2003, dialogue around young people was often very accusatory, dismissive and at most condescending and paternalistic. Post-Roe vs. Wade, post-civil rights movement, children of the baby boomers and their kids were actively being labeled as lazy, apathetic, unappreciative, ungrateful, complacent and frankly uninterested in the social and political movements in our country and abroad. Those few young people who were seen as exceptions to the rule were donned "Leaders of the Future".

Choice USA's intent in establishing the Generation Awards was to accomplish two things.

First, we desired to show the world that young people in the United States are not only aware and interested in the social and political events that shape our lives and those of our communities around the world, but that we are actively thinking and strategizing about how to make a positive and lasting impact towards social change. And, secondly, that not only are young people the future leaders of global movements for change; but young people in the here and now, domestically and internationally, are leading the fight for access to higher education, to quality comprehensive sex education, to fair labor practices, for corporate responsibility, for the greening of our communities and for true autonomy and freedom to make healthy choices for our bodies and lives.

The Generation Awards is Choice USA's chance to be the megaphone for all of the youth voices crying out for change and creatively making their marks on this often unjust world. Without fail, the young people we have awarded over the years have identified and credited mentors in their lives that gave them the space, development and empowerment to become the leaders they are today. Therefore, in 2005 we created the Mentor of the Year award and in 2006 the Sharing the Legacy award to also give recognition and heap thanks on those who demonstrate our values of shared power, leadership development, intergenerational learning and leading. These awardees model what it means to make a way for young people.

Like the past four years, we hope this year's Generation-to Generation Celebration on May 23, 2007 will inspire young people who are looking for an outlet for their passion, commitment, ideas, and intelligence to get involved. We hope it will reinvigorate the commitment of the awardees to stay involved and continue to pave the way for other young leaders, and lastly we want to illustrate to seasoned and established leaders the value-added when we invest in new leadership and encourage the purposeful and strategic transfer of information and skills.

Tickets for this year's Generation Awards can be purchased here and you can see the full list of the 2007 Awardees here. We hope you'll join us in celebrating these amazing young leaders.