one of the most inspiring things i’ve been feeling is about how much youth involvement there is across the united states in movements for equity and justice. being raised in the united states school system shapes a worldview and relationship to authority structures that varies across regional, class, and racial populations but generally leaves a huge need for outside information and empowerment. it seems that when this is done with community as a focus as well as a regional focus, i.e. discussing issues that youth feel are important and pressing to them, there is a lot that can come out of it. i was struck by what Sandra of the Southwest Workers Union told me about how their youth program started and what it has meant in the union since then.
(not edited at all, and there are a few interruptions as this interview was done in the hallway of the SWU office during a weekday)
Basically, around 1999 the union was focusing on school teachers and workers in schools and there was an increasing need for childcare so that parents could engage in meetings and such. Che Lopez, interviewed in an earlier video posted here, started a youth program and it has developed since then. now there is a summer internship program for highschool students that works in the garden and learns about growing food, has workshops that range from topics about domestic violence to anti-recruitment (san antonio has 9 MILITARY BASES and 2 military hospitals, and is only one hour from the border: a militarized city in a lot of ways). the youth also learn about how policy works and are part of press conferences, meetings with representatives etc. i didn’t learn too much about what kind of policies they are involved in but i assume it includes immigration policy and possibly land use/resource allocation/education stuff in san antonio (or san anto as some say). involving youth is crucial, as Sandra (youth coordinator, started as an intern, now staff) said, because they are so involved in the work that the union does since it affects their lives on a lot of different levels. some youth have parents in the union, others go to schools where the union is working with staff or teachers, and almost all live in san antonio which means they face the environmental injustice issues that SWU fights.
at the detroit us social forum there was SO MUCH youth oriented stuff!!! it was really great. i didn’t make it to any specifically youth related workshops but did meet some people who run the Green Gorillas program in New York state. this is about youth leadership and media empowerment and environmental justice stuff, and seems like a program that has been exciting and beneficial, from what some of the youth who came to detroit told me. overall the ongoing and growing discussion about how important it is to involve youth in conversations and work related to their lives/communities/the empire of the united states is crucial.
Oh! i forgot to mention the badass work that esperanza does in san antonio (http://www.esperanzacenter.org/). i met melissa rodriguez, an amazing artist and passionate organizer, who introduced me to a whole lot of really great women at their center. they are doing some similar work as WSU with the important addition of a feminist analysis and emphasis on cultural expression and empowerment. really awesome and i truly wish i had more time with them. they do some really important inter-generational history preservation/cultivation and i recommend their publication, La Voz de Esperanza. fighting some ridiculous free speech battles where the city of san antonio was trying to charge $70,000 FOR THE 2006 IMMIGRANT RIGHTS MARCH!!!! the slogan of, “the city says: pay up or shut up” reflects this crazy atmosphere where public assembly is expensive if your message isn’t desired.
much love to all those reading this, and feel free to comment with questions or whatevs. i’ll put up videos from detroit and chicago real soon.
here is a video of the Southwest Workers’ Union summer interns watching a video about popular highschools that my brother, Ryan, brought to share.