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Justin J. Pearson on Empowering Youth Voices

Justin J. Pearson, Tennessee State Representative speaking on stage at the 2023 SAVE Promise Club Summit.

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Discover the inspiring journey of Justin J. Pearson, Tennessee State Representative, as he shares his experience as a former member of Sandy Hook Promise’s Youth Advisory Board. In an excerpt from his powerful speech at the 2023 SAVE Summit event, Pearson emphasizes the significance of embracing our unique power to transform lives and create a better world for all. Read his important words.

Ten years ago, I was in Memphis City schools and came together with a group of students to address the issue of violence through the Students Against Violence Everywhere (SAVE) conference. I was able to join the Youth Advisory Board (YAB) that fall, and it was an amazing experience. An opportunity to serve, and one of the first places that I learned that we could do something.

Realizing the Power of Youth

At the Youth Advisory Board, I had an eye-opening experience. It was there that I first discovered the true power of youth. I realized that age should never be a barrier to making a difference. Often, society tells us that we are too young to have an impact, too young to stand up, and too young to be heard. However, organizations like SAVE Promise Club recognize the intrinsic power within each young person. They remind us that our voices matter, and we can create positive change in the world.

Making a Difference

Youth activism has proven instrumental in addressing critical issues such as intolerance, shootings, bullying, violence, and depression. Every action taken, whether it be within classrooms or through community-building efforts, contributes to building a safer society. By preventing violence and fostering understanding, young individuals are transforming lives and communities.

The People-Powered Movement

What sets this movement apart is its reliance on the power of the people. It acknowledges that true power cannot be given or taken away. It lives within each individual. The work being done by young activists, even before they hold official titles or build retirement savings, proves their understanding of their own power and the impact they can have by using their voices.

Speaking Up Against Silence

There are times when those in positions of power try to silence us. I have experienced this firsthand. A powerful example of this is the response to the Covenant School shooting. Many were discouraged from speaking up about ending gun violence. However, myself and representatives Jones and Johnson refused to be silenced. We stood up and demanded that the voices of the people be heard. This act of defiance came at a cost, but it also propelled us back into the statehouse, where change began to take shape.

It is through collective action that we can demand to be heard. By speaking up, marching, writing letters, and making phone calls, we can create a groundswell of change that compels others to act. Our voices matter, and when we engage in the process, we can create tangible change.

Embracing Our Unique Power

We may not yet hold positions as elected officials. But we must remember that we have something far more valuable: our voice, our feet, and our minds. We are the hands, feet, and hearts of a movement seeking justice and transformation. Through our unwavering dedication, we become part of a historical legacy that propels us forward.

In our pursuit of change, it is vital to care for the most marginalized members of society. By standing with those pushed to the margins, we gain a unique perspective that allows us to challenge privilege and injustice. Together, we can offer support, report bullying, and advocate for those facing discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, or body weight. Through collective liberation, we create a better world for all.

How You Can Get Involved

Are you ready to make a difference? We invite you to watch our video, which encapsulates the spirit of SAVE Promise Club. Led by our Youth Advisory Board, the aim is to empower young leaders to take an active role in increasing school safety and preventing different forms of violence in schools and communities. Together, let’s be the change-makers, inspiring a wave of positive transformation in our schools and communities.