By Nick Winnie
The Grand Lake Theater in Oakland was a packed house on Monday night, filled to the brim with musicians, poets, and progressive politicians looking to push for social reform. A shared sense of excitement and outrage infused the room as the lights dimmed.
"History is turning right before our eyes, and we need to turn it in a different direction," said Larry Everest, a political author and prominent leader of the national political organization World Can’t Wait.
Everest’s group hopes to spark a new grassroots youth movement to oppose the Bush administration.
The rally, organized by World Can’t Wait, included speeches and poems from prominent writers and political activists including Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple, and Daniel Ellsberg, the former intelligence analyst who leaked the Pentagon papers during the Vietnam War.
Both speakers touched on recent events in Washington, speaking out against recent legislation passed concerning military tribunals for terror suspects, as well as the general desire to create a strong youth political movement.
The goal of increased youth activism is a major focus of World Can’t Wait, according to Don Spark, head organizer of the Bay Area chapter.
"50 percent of the work of World Can’t Wait is devoted to launching the youth and student movement," Spark said. Throughout the evening, speakers made comparisons between the current youth generation’s general sense of apathy and the strong anti-war movement that sprung from the "youth counterculture" of the 1960s.
Giovanni Toledo, head youth and student organizer for World Can’t Wait, pointed out differences between today’s political situation and that of the 1960s.
"A lot of people would argue that it will take something extreme like a draft to get people involved," said Toledo, also a UCSC alum, "The key is coming to a point where you have to pick a side and you are forced to act based on your moral stance."
Another World Can’t Wait youth organizer, Devin Curtis, described the organization’s purpose as one of reigniting a lost spirit of activism among youth.
"There was a real edge in the ’60s generation of direct confrontation," Curtis said. "World Can’t Wait is trying to take back that edge for the youth today."
The organization has planned what it calls a "National Day of Mass Resistance" for this Thursday to protest the Bush administration’s foreign and domestic policies.
Spark explained that the event was planned a month after school began and a month before November elections in order to maximize student involvement.
The day is one of national protest for World Can’t Wait, with chapters all over the nation expected to turn out in protest. The Bay Area chapter of the organization is calling for mass school walkouts, and hoping for a large turnout in the march in San Francisco from the Civic Center to Union Square, where a separate political rally will be taking place.
Members of the organization are hoping, above all else, for a large youth turnout in the Bay Area.
"People don’t realize that a youth movement can come to life again," Toledo said. "But it is definitely what we need."