|Source: We the People (Netflix)|
By Sam Piha
According to the Afterschool Alliance, “The afterschool field is an essential partner in ensuring that all children have the ability to participate in immersive, relevant, and hands-on civic engagement opportunities.” Not only are civic engagement strategies participatory strategies, they contribute to the positive development of youth and the health of our democracy.
A: Growing up, I always hear about the social issues that have impacted my homeland, the Philippines, and further into the issues here in the US. I’ve joined programs and opportunities that have helped me expand my social justice awareness. During my sophomore year of high school, our school Richmond High, was one of the local high schools in our district to call on action regarding the election results in 2016. The impact and rage it created in my community showed me how powerful we can be to make a change. It wasn’t only adults, the majority of those who showed up and marched in the streets to city hall were youth. The unity I witnessed and experienced motivated me to seek opportunities where I can further see, hear, and be with my community to move into great changes.
In my junior year, I had the opportunity to take on “artivism” by crafting a quilt through the Social Justice Sewing Academy, touching on the issues of gun violence across the nation, by visualizing and questioning the “beauty” of this country, in spite of all the violence impacting the lives of people, majority being the BBIPOC community, both directly and indirectly, while honoring the lives harmed and lost. Later in the school year, the Richmond Youth Organizing Team internship of RYSE was introduced to students through outreach of our Youth Coordinator, Diana Diaz. After learning about this opportunity, I realized this is my time and opportunity to get more involved with social justice and community organizing. As of now, I have been involved with RYSE since April 2018, during which time I have become a youth intern, where I gained connections and a chosen family, with people who were also driven and empowered to be a voice for their community. Now as a staff member, I am a Youth Organizing Program Assistant at RYSE, continuing to be a radical youth and community organizer in Richmond.
Q: What are you working on currently?
A: Currently I am co-planning a summer internship opportunity for youth in Richmond, where they can have a collective space and they can learn and discuss the roots and values of abolition, while getting to know Richmond and creating a space for healing, culture and resilience. Youth also will have the opportunity to create their own transformative campaign and policy for local societal issues.
Aside from this work, I am also part of the Youth Anti-Displacement, which is a cohort of Bay Area organizations who are currently working on projects to spread awareness on displacement currently happening in the Bay Area.
Q: In your view, why is youth voice and youth activism important?
A: Hearing, seeing, and feeling youth take action and step out, is one of the most beautiful things to witness in our existence. The power youth hold and deliver is one of the ingredients to liberation. Youth voices are important because we are loud and proud, we are straightforward and know what we want to change. The resilience youth have shown lately is the epiphany of youth power and activism. Youth activism involves actions and views that can be thought of as the alternative perspective to how others may approach certain issues. Youth voices cannot be lowered down because we find ways to be heard, youth are not afraid to stand up for others, and see things fall down. We know a lot of things that are happening will be in our hands until we grow old, we don't only look back at the past to change it anymore, now we make the present matter the most, for it will determine the future.
Q: What advice do you have for afterschool programs who want to provide opportunities for youth to become civically engaged?
A: Encourage youth to decide and take action. Whether it is choosing topics to discuss, or choosing an activity set from their interest in social justice. Seek spaces where they will feel like they belong. Set opportunities where there can be workshops that help youth create their pathways to be involved through their own identities, culture, and challenges. Always acknowledge their own curiosity to things whether it's through their families, friends, schools or communities, where they can find involvement and awareness.
Q: What activities and issues do you think youth are most interested in?
A: Right now a lot of youth have been interested in learning more about issues on police brutality, racial injustice, environmental injustice, broken healthcare systems, along with other systemic issues; food insecurity, and more. Activities that can tie into these issues can be a workshop for Know Your Rights, learning about systems and how it leads to the Prison Industrial Complex, and more. Other activities can also include ways youth can develop leadership skills and individual skills they want to have or improve, anything that can support their growth and self-power.
Q: Looking ahead, what are your plans for continuing your activism?
A: I see myself getting more involved in my community, through RYSE and other opportunities that may come my way. Richmond or elsewhere, I will continue to walk with the movement locally happening, finding more ways to serve our youth, adults, and elders. Continuing to be resilient, be with community, seek and make change, keeping the radical fights alive, all through healing and transformative actions, until we reach the liberation our people deserve.
Ann Guiam (she/they) is a 20 year old Filipinx youth, from San Pablo/Richmond, CA. She started as a youth intern at RYSE at the age of 16. By going through the leadership pipeline of being an intern to fellow, she is now a Youth Organizing Program Assistant at Richmond’s RYSE Youth Center. Ann centers radical organizing for social justice issues by expressing her leadership and diligence through community engagement, youth power advocacy, art (artivism/poetry), fighting against displacement, and more, all with love and solidarity.