This past Summer 2019, Movement Matters created and facilitated a weeklong Community Organizing Institute for Latinx immigrant youth in the DC area. Training youth is different than training staff organizers. It engages us differently, challenges us, offers new perspectives on our work, and keeps us on our toes. Flexibility and responsiveness became key parts of the week.
The Youth Organizing Institute allowed us the opportunity to deepen our use of arts and theater/movement based activities to engage young people in deep reflection on the issues they face in their schools, jobs, and community. We explored power dynamics and how they are used to reinforce the status quo. We grappled with the role of race in creating divisions among youth, as well as common experiences that could be built upon. In each of these discussions, we integrated the need for structural change. And in order to create this change, the need for a strong youth voice, for cohesive relationships, for bold action, for organizing.
There is much work that is still to be done. The deep conversations throughout the week meant we spent less time than we anticipated on some of the core organizing skills we hoped to cover. We touched on the need for relationship building, but didn’t get to practice some of the essentials of outreach and one-on-ones. We talked about the need to challenge power, but only touched on the tools for conducting target analysis and building strategic campaigns. These became the guideposts for our current work, not just in trainings with Movement Matters, but in our ongoing engagement with the organizations that brought youth to the Institute.
These organizations included CASA de Maryland, the Latino Youth Leadership Council, and Many Languages One Voice. It was truly exciting to bring youth from various organizations across the region together to ground themselves in a common experience, build relationships of action, and begin to envision a broader immigrant youth movement in the DMV—especially at this urgent moment. Through our ongoing work with these groups, and our partnership with the Meyer Foundation to expand the number of organizations focusing on youth voice and power, we are excited to continue to build knowledge and commitment to youth organizing. We plan to build on this process and expand the circle of organizations and young people learning and creating change together.
Movement Matters is currently scheduled to conduct a 4-day Youth Organizing Institute in Long Island, New York this April 2020.