Last November, six of PFF’s grantee partners attended Funders’ Collaborative for Youth Organizing (FCYO)’s national convening in Albuquerque, “Youth POWER 2017: From Rooted Resilience to Rising Power”. The convening, which brought together 375 attendees from 140 unique organizations represented more than 30 U.S. states. Connecticut was represented by members of CityWide Youth Coalition, Connecticut Students for a Dream, Grow Hartford Youth Program, Hearing Youth Voices, Make the Road CT, and People for Race and Ethnicity Studies Today (PREST).
Mona Yeh at FCYO shared what the goals that framed the transformative gathering were:
Grounded in a Culture of Resistance: We will be grounded in the communities, practices, and wisdom offered by New Mexico and the Southwest. We will learn the historical and current impacts of colonization and explore resiliency practices that have stood the test of time.
Strengthening the Power and Self Determination of Our Communities: Reflecting on our current political landscape, we work towards strengthening the self-determination of our communities to have the political, economic, and cultural power to build just, healthy and thriving communities. We will share the various ways that young people are using a range of strategies and tactics to build the power of ourselves, our organizations and our communities.
Sharing Stories, Connecting Struggles, and Building Power: In order to create changes we seek in the world, we need a more unified movement that connects our local struggles and builds unity across issues, geographies, and constituencies. We will connect and weave our stories to nurture our relationships and connect our struggles across borders and boundaries to create shared narratives that support our strategies to build power. We will share tools, lessons and connect in intergenerational spaces and with allies in global struggles.
Briyana, a senior in high school is PREST’s Program Coordinator and youth leader. She shared with us what inspired her to attend the convening and what’s stayed with her since:
Q: What’s your role at PREST?
A: I’m the Program Coordinator – that means I support the activities of the PREST Youth Team (PYT), maintain our website and social media accounts, and help manage relationships with specific people.
Q: What interested you in attending the convening?
A: I had never been to New Mexico before; I wanted to go to a different part of the country and learn how they defined youth power and building it.
Q: What is youth power?
A: Youth power is youth having the ability to make change or influence changes in their community and environment.
Q: Did you get to experience youth power and the process of building this collective power at the convening?
A: Yes, I did! At the convening there were two hosts, one was and adult and the second was in his early teens. He gave us announcements, introduced the people when they came up to speak, and gave directions for the convening.
Q: After your time at the convening you made a slideshow to inform the other PREST team members about your experiences. Thank you for sharing it with me! What did you hope to share and communicate through the PowerPoint?
A: I wanted to capture the knowledge I gained – I learned a lot from the walking tours as well as the workshops, and multitude of people I interacted with. The topics I explored and the experiences I had all taught me new things. Also, the food was really good! It was a good time, and also very educational, and I wanted to present that in my slideshow.
“People of all ages are welcome and capable of doing this work. I met people who were eleven and twelve who had been doing this work for a number of years and I also met people who were much older. This wasn’t just something for adults or young people, but everyone.”
Q: I remember in your presentation you mentioned workshops and specific learning opportunities, which did you attend? Was there anything in particular that stayed with you?
A: Early in the convening there were walking tours of different locations in Albuquerque. I went to Sanchez Farms Open Space, where I was able to see an organization that is working to rebuild the land and make their own organic farms. They also have a farming process that allows them to give back to their community. There was one particular workshop on how people of color have been criminalized that really stuck with me. I learned how the strategies we’ve developed for survival have become criminalized, and the presenters explained the history of people of color in America.
Q: If someone wanted to attend a future FCYO convening, what should they know before they go?
A:They should know that people of all ages are welcome and capable of doing this work. I met people who were eleven and twelve who had been doing this work for a number of years and I also met people who were much older. This wasn’t just something for adults or young people, but everyone. It also gave me a lot of chances to network and learn about new people.
Q: Speaking of networking, were there any connections you made at the convening that you still keep?
A:Yes! Eric, who does work on immigration actually are to present at PYT (PREST Youth Team) and taught us about the work he and his organization have been doing. He also gave us language to have discussions about immigration.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share with me?
A: Just that I had an amazing time, and that other people should definitely go!
You can experience memories from the convening on FCYO’s Facebook page, Twitter and Storify page.
If you attended the conference and would like to share your experience or reflections, email firstname.lastname@example.org.