Dillon Bernard, changemaker and producer of Young People Address, led the youth response to the State of the Union for the third year via live-stream. Young activists immediately responded to Biden’s address during the third annual “Young People Address the Nation.” Biden spoke about the current unemployment rate, police reform, and assault weapon bans. (Photo Courtesy of Dillon Bernard’s press secretary, Tracy Aliche)

By Tashi McQueen,
AFRO Political Writer,

President Biden addressed the nation with his State of the Union Address on Feb. 7 at 9 p.m.

Dillon Bernard, the 23-year old producer of Young People Address, led the third annual “Young People Address the Nation,” directly after the president’s address. 

Concerns about gun violence, climate change, racial injustice and youth representation in Congress were all key points discussed in the youth response to the speech.

“I created this movement from frustration,” said Bernard. “Young people are disproportionately affected by climate change, social justice and gun violence– but are often left out of the conversation. We will have to deal with these issues for the rest of our lives, so we should be at the table.”

“I saw this movement as an opportunity to shift people’s attention to young voices,” Bernard continues. “I thought to use social media because it’s an apparatus that has everyone’s attention.”

Biden addressed a wide range of topics from jobs to the Jan. 6 2021 insurrection, big tech data collection, border control, mental health issues and bipartisanship.

“My economic plan is about investing in places and people that have been forgotten. Amid the economic upheaval of the past four decades, too many people have been left behind or treated like they’re invisible,” said Biden. “That’s why we’re building an economy where no one is left behind. This is a blue-collar blueprint to rebuild America and make a real difference in your lives.”

Biden addressed the unemployment rate as well.

“The unemployment rate is at 3.4 percent, a 50-year low, [with] near record-low unemployment for Black and Hispanic workers,” said Biden.

Biden also called for the ban of assault weapons during his address.

“I led the fight to ban assault weapons in 1994,” said Biden. “In the ten years the ban was law, mass shootings went down. After Republicans let it expire, mass shootings tripled. Let’s finish the job and ban assault weapons again.”

Biden invited the parents of Tyre Nichols, the young Black man who recently died after being brutally beaten by five police officers. He took a bipartisan approach to the topic.

“We know police officers are putting their lives on the line every day,” said Biden, who received a standing ovation from all attendees. “But what happened to Tyre Nichols is not acceptable. We need to get rid of no-knock warrants.”

Bernard expressed the importance of using his voice as a Black man.

“As an African American male, it’s critical for me to use my voice. My daily existence is in rebellion and I’ve made sure that my handprint is throughout this event,” said Bernard.

Ayana Albertini-Fleurant of Sustain The Culture, a community hub for mass Black environmental engagement, shared her experience as a Black woman in America.

“It’s impossible for me as a Black woman to feel safe outdoors, and that is a direct conflict with my work,” said Albertini-Fleurant. “It’s necessary to pull money away from large businesses and invest in Black communities that suffer from resource deprivation and a lack of adequate safety measures.”

The “Young People Address the Nation” will be re-streamed at 8 p.m. on Feb. 8 EST at Youngpeopleaddress.org

Tashi is a Report For America Corps Member.

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