by Yian Saechao and Justin Sipoloa, Youth Organizers
As growing baby organizers, we have been on a journey to truly organize and empower our youth. Why? Because the youth are our future, and we need to invest to build them up. This means we constantly assess how our organizing connects with the broader fight for justice, and vice versa. Often in our work, we seek to gain moral power by changing and shaping narratives to tell the truth about our communities’ lived experiences. While it is a powerful tool we have in our fight for justice, we recognize moral power is not enough – especially when the oppressive forces we fight against also work to constantly change the narrative of our people, and still hold the power to make decisions that negatively impact our lives. For us, building real people power and making change happen means moving beyond moral power.
Yes, moral power offers us the important narratives and truths of our communities, but narratives themselves are not the end goal. Moral power alone will not overcome institutional authority, electoral infrastructure, mass communications, corporate lobbyists, or dominant ideologies. So while narratives get us stories and funding, in the end, where we put our money and resources highly matters. And this is where youth organizing comes in.
As organizers, we believe every person has something to offer in the movement, and it’s on us to invest funds, time, and energy in youth organizing to develop our youth into the leaders of tomorrow. That is the only way to sustain the movement as youth become older adults, and older adults become elders. On the flip side, the movement becomes stagnant if we don’t build, believe, trust, and uplift our youth.
As we grow, investing in our community means:
- Meeting consistently to build deep relationships and safe community space,
- Developing individuals intentionally in ways that connect to the larger movement,
- Valuing individuals with appropriate compensation and financial/resource investment,
- Asking questions that provide organizers with community-centered guidance,
- Listening to community for solutions, and working with our community to push for the justice they seek.
So what does that look like?
- BASE BUILDING. Build trust and relationships, get to know personal experiences and struggles, understand our histories and ties, and make connections.
- LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT. Facilitate political education of our base, develop individual skills, and deepen relationships to move work that reflects our base’s dreams.
- CAREER & LIFE OPPORTUNITIES. Hand the reigns over to those most affected so that our base put their skills and life experience to practice.
This past year, APANO’s youth organizing base transformed into two groups: Oregon Nesian Youth for Change in Society (ONYCS) and Asian Leaders for the Liberation of Youth (ALLY). The separation recognizes Pacific Islander and Asian youth experience school, work, and life differently. Here’s what our 2017 looked like: