We sat down with our Asian youth organizer Lanea Olson to talk about youth organizing in 2020.
APANO: What are you celebrating about your work in 2020?
Lanea: In the midst of a pandemic, we saw the challenges resulting from a lack of outlets for youth to meaningfully connect. We created a collective Youth COVID survey with other organizations to voice youth’s concerns early on into the pandemic. We co-hosted 3 youth focused events on topics like climate justice and mental health. But what I’m really celebrating is the youth who pushed forward. Youth continued to speak out with the rise of the BLM movement and xenophobia towards our communities. 2020 has really brought youth who identify as Black, Indigenous, and People of Color to the center of how we build together to not only survive but thrive.
APANO: What do you want to make possible in 2021?
Lanea: In 2021, we are expanding our youth programming to encourage youth to be self-determined and take on direct leadership. This starts with our Youth Organizers in Training program! We have 4 high school organizers (or YOINTs as APANO staff like to call them) participating in a virtual semester-long program where they will engage in collaborative skills training and political education.
Our program has youth representing areas across Oregon ensuring Asian American issues are represented from different perspectives outside of Portland. When youth are seen and heard, they will create a better future than we ever thought possible. In 2021, I hope the YOINTs build their confidence as leaders, and know they have a real right and responsibility to our world.