At SEACA, the end of the year usually means transitions for our Youth Leadership Project (YLP) participants into becoming Youth Organizers (YO) next semester. This year they were able to wrap-up the year at an exciting & informative camping retreat hosted by Community Nature Connection. Through this overnight stay in the secluded hills of Puerco Canyon our youth were not only able to learn about the Chumash, edible/ medicinal plants, and basic survival skills; but also acquired the knowledge of what it means to become a Youth Organizer, bond as a cohort, and support one another through team building. For most, this was their first time camping with minimal to no electronics. On the first night they even went on a solo hike with no use of any light source aside from the moon where they learned that humans have natural night vision! Additionally, they worked on developing collective power through a theater activity based on identifying different assets that people have and coming together to do community work. We ended our retreat at a Malibu Coastal Access Point and had a splash at the beach.
May Day Collective Poem
Everyone’s life has an important story
No story is lesser than the others
We work and work to live
With our sisters & brothers
But we don’t realize that we need each other
And When workers & students are united
We will never be defeated
Every year SEACA youth spend several weeks preparing for the International Worker’s Day march, through making stenciled posters and learning about global immigrant worker’s struggles and rights. This year we decided to get a bit more creative by constructing an oversized SEACA Peace Dragon with messages including, “We’re going to crush that wage theft” and “Don’t sleep on worker’s rights.” We even spent some time writing collective poetry based off what they learned about the daily struggle of immigrant workers surviving in Los Angeles, which includes that of their parents and family members.
On May 1st, with six youth wearing the dragon, while others chanted “When workers are under attack/ What do we do?/ Stand-up fight back!” we glided through Chinatown from the SEACA office down to City Hall to catch the tail end of the march. As we passed by workers and shoppers along Broadway, they turned their heads to watch where we were headed. Once we got to City Hall we looped down Spring St. toward Placita Olvera to witness community members speaking out and writing messages of solidarity for women and children in immigration detention centers. As the march came to a close we hope that our youth continue share to their messages of solidarity beyond this action.
But hold on! The fun continues as we begin introducing our YLP students to more serious topics for discussion, which include U.S. militarism, European colonization, cultural erasure of different ethnic groups, and, most importantly, the significance of solidarity and organizing teamwork.
To students, these may be difficult topics to discuss, but here at SEACA we encourage students to step outside of their comfort zones and to think outside the box. By incorporating different cultural foods, students were able to understand how community organizing today built off of historical context of the past can help us figure out what path we, as a society, should walk on in the future.
This year our Youth Organizers (YO) worked creatively to develop new games and activities to welcome the new Youth Leadership Project (YLP) members into the space. After spending a couple weeks preparing for open house, recruiting new members, and doing turnout calls. Our YO’s were finally able to see their hard work pay off at our annual Open House.
YO’s opened up the space by building community through a game of People Bingo where everyone was able to meet new people and learn about each other; some even won prizes! Each year our new members begin building relationship through these fun and creative games that other youth facilitate.
The excitement grew more serious when we transitioned into an activity known as “The Privilege Walk.” As they all stood in a line anticipating the statements that revolved around privileges based on gender, race, ethnicity, class and sexuality to be called out, each took a step forward or backward based on how they identify. This activity allowed them to realize the diversity of privileges and struggles we all come from and how we can use them in community work. Although some youth looked uncomfortable responding to the more sensitive statements, they were willing to open up and be vulnerable in the space. During debrief, new members were able to share out that the activity was interesting and eye-opening. This was just a taster of what SEACA has to offer in YLP. We look forward to continue building with our new youth!
Most high school students look forward to spending their Spring Break with their friends, hanging out at the beach or the movies.
SEACA youth chose to go to City Hall instead. On Wednesday, March 23rd, SEACA youth spent the day meeting with representatives from the Mayor’s Office and Council Districts 1 and 13.
They shared stories of their love for their communities, their family’s struggle to pay for rent, the need for good jobs, their desire to meaningfully participate in the City decisionmaking process for their communities, and recommendations for how to solve these issues.
Youth Advocacy Day was the culmination of an intensive series of trainings where students developed their own vision of economic and environmental justice for their communities and advocacy strategies to ensure that their vision becomes a reality.