Trust the Youth — Really


Greetings from 3:00am.

I just returned home after a 7+ hour City Council meeting! (They were still going with minor details after I left). I’ve shared a bit of this process in other posts, but the community has been engaging the Mayor and City Council of Ann Arbor as they deliberate toward a Police Oversight Commission. At times, this has involved great conflict.

You can read about that in these places:

Presence Set the Tone
City Council Poem by Julie Quiroz
Will We Believe Our Neighbors?

Tonight, the City Council passed their ordinance. It was a significant departure from the Task Force’s ordinance, but several amendments were added tonight. That brought them closer together in some places, but in other places, key amendments failed.

There was a time of public comment. Alongside others, I spoke in advocacy of an amendment to add a youth member to the Police Oversight Commission. I’m grateful to say that at the very least, this one passed.

Address to City Council

My name is Renee Roederer. I am a resident of Ann Arbor and a Chaplain at the University of Michigan. Today, as you deliberate toward an ordinance for this Police Oversight Commission, I would like to advocate for an amendment to include a youth member on that Commission with full participation and full vote.

For the last eleven years, I have worked closely alongside students and young adults. Many people in our city, including some present today, have worked closely with teenagers in Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County. We know that youth are intimately and acutely aware of the problems their generation faces, some inherited locally, some inherited and endured through centuries of systematic oppression.

Last week, I walked through the Diag at the University and saw a large sign where students were invited to write answers to this prompt: “If I Could Change the World, I Would…” There, I saw hopes, aspirations, and heartache alike. Young people long to have substantive opportunities to impact their future for their own generation and for people of all ages. But it is so rare for us, their elders, to hand over power, leadership, and decision-making ability. And that seems to be magnified when young people come from marginalized identities and experiences of disenfranchisement.

In the midst of this, I hope we will think about what is possible: What is possible when we invite young people to lead, not only alongside us, but to actually lead the way? To actually lead us? I have built community with hundreds of students over the years and mentored a large number of people for more than a decade. And I wholeheartedly believe in reverse mentoring. I know how much I have learned, how much I have been formed and transformed through these relationships. Our city and our nation need to learn from our youth, and ultimately, be formed and transformed by their leadership.

Marginalized youth in our city know that they and their peers have experienced hardships in connection to policing — at the Blake Transit Center, in traffic stops, in having to look over their own shoulders in the most routine of situations as people unjustly view them with suspicion.

What is possible? I have spoken with Dwight Wilson from the Human Rights Commission and other members of the community who are interested in seeing the creation of a new youth council in Ann Arbor with a youth member serving on the Police Oversight Commission as a liaison to and from that council. We can trust our youth to participate and lead in this process, and we should because they are capable, they are directly-impacted, and they deserve the opportunity to shape and transform what is impacting their lives.

Thank you.


Now…. I’m going to sleep in like it’s my job.

Renee Roederer

2 thoughts on “Trust the Youth — Really

  1. I can’t imagine a 7+ hour city council meeting. I go to the ones in Wayne. I think 3 hours was the longest one, and I can’t even remember why.

    People don’t trust the councils/city/etc because it’s the same old thing. In A2 you had a committee tasked with coming up with this Police Oversight Commission, who spent alot of time doing it, and then it was “tossed” aside for what the council wanted. No wonder there is so little faith in city governments. Or governments, period.

    Glad you spoke up for getting a youth on the commission.


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