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Young people in New Jersey Turn To the Green Party

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Youth Caucus builds 100 members within a year

By Beetle Brown, Communications Director, Young Ecosocialists-NJ

Skolar and Samaniego stand with Madelyn Hoffman in Highland Park, NJ on February 2, 2020, at the Hoffman for Senate 2020 Campaign Kickoff.

Fundamental to the Green Party traditions of grassroots democracy and ecological sustainability is the party’s outreach and support for youth. In not many other states is this more true than in New Jersey, where over the last year, Green Party youth have built up a nearly 100 member-strong coalition of young activists and organizers under the New Jersey chapter of the Young Ecosocialists (YES).

Youth-Led Environmental Justice Rally at the Union County Courthouse in Elizabeth, NJ on September 26, 2020.

The chapter was the vision of Matthew Skolar and Anthony Samaniego, both of whom met state Green Party leaders in New Jersey at the campaign kickoff for Madelyn Hoffman’s 2020 U.S. Senate run. Skolar and Samaniego started to organize taking inspiration from how the party was able to motivate young people into activism and its inclusion of youth in its primary process (minors are included and allowed to vote at the Green Party of NJ Convention).

Officially accredited with the Green Party of New Jersey in April 2020, the caucus had its first officer elections symbolically on May 1st.

Many of the early members of the caucus were only high school students. Many of them couldn’t even vote.

Some of them were new to political organizing. Quickly, the team built up a social media following on Instagram and were out of the gate rolling.

Reflecting on the early days of the caucus, Skolar said, “It was amazing how we were able to quickly build up our ranks. These were the early days keep in mind.” He continued, “But, with the pandemic came a wave of radicalization in New Jersey youth faced with the fact that the Democratic Party dominated state government was not what it was played up to be.”

YES-NJ members, Chloé Alce, Zoe Tweedie, and Justin Roig after a march on March 20, 2021 through Hackensack, NJ from the Bergen County Jail, where immigrant detainees have been on hunger strike.

By August, YES-NJ had reached 50 members and was actively supporting state and local Green candidates for public office. Multiple members became key parts of Hoffman’s campaign success in 2020. Additionally, the advent of increased political and social organizing allowed the caucus to quickly be invited into multiple social justice coalitions.

In September, the Caucus partnered up with Sunrise Movement and Cosecha to plan an Environmental Justice action in Elizabeth, NJ. The action captured the energy of youth organizing around environmental issues, and the presence of the Young Ecosocialists allowed for political dialogue between Greens and youth who may not otherwise have been attracted to the Party. Madelyn Hoffman was given a platform to speak, and quickly became a figure appreciated by people across the community of youth organizers in New Jersey.

Post-election, the Caucus transitioned its focus toward mutual aid work and the cancellation of local contracts between ICE and counties in Northern New Jersey. 

Chloé Alce, YES-NJ Vice Chair, and Justin Roig, YES-NJ Secretary with Madelyn Hoffman at the Union County Courthouse post-action in Elizabeth, NJ on September 26, 2020.

Nationally, Justin Roig and Matthew Skolar both serve as the youngest delegates on the Green Party National Committee, and Anthony Samaniego is the youngest member of the Green Party National Peace Action Committee.

In the future, the state caucus leadership has plans to eventually mentor young people in the party to become stronger activists, learn how to use the party to promote political goals and encourage youth to run for office. In terms of the Green Party of New Jersey, the new and blossoming youth caucus has given them a young, energetic volunteer base to reach voters around the state in communities the party has not always reached.

Let YES-NJ be an example for other state parties as to how they can organize and empower youth activism through their electoral organizing.

For inquiries on joining YES Caucus or learning about the Caucus’ mission, please email yescaucusnj@gmail.com or reach out to the caucus on Instagram (@young.ecosocialists.nj) or Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/young.ecosocialists.nj).

YES-NJ members, Matthew Skolar, Avery Seal, Danielle Di Domenico, and Alex Bossart after an over 5 mile march from the Hudson County Jail, to the Essex County Jail, and to the Newark, NJ headquarters of ICE on January 18, 2021.
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