For many longtime Bread & Roses donors, the commitment to social justice grew from causes that mattered to them as youth. In a time of austerity measures and disinvestment, young people are fighting every day to protect the social justice victories they inherited. Bread & Roses grantees have put their trust in the power and leadership of young people to create meaningful social change in their communities.
Racial & Economic Justice Fund and One Percent Fund grantee Philadelphia Student Union (PSU) encourages student members to become organizers. PSU executive director Hiram Rivera says that being an organizer comes with the responsibility to politicize and agitate your peers. “Being a PSU member is not just about showing up to a rally,” Rivera says. “PSU youth organizers identify issues, strategize how to win them, and build a base to make it happen by talking to folks and building relationships.”
Young leaders Karla Rojas and Olivia Vasquez at Latino Organizing Fund grantee Juntos founded Fuerza, a youth leadership committee, in 2011. Youth organizer Miguel Andrade describes Juntos’ approach: “We do a lot of skill building: public speaking, how to speak with press, how to recruit people, how to do workshops and info sessions, how to build up and identify yourself as a leader.” In August, Fuerza members designed and launched “Free2Dream,” a social media campaign to raise awareness about the Pennsylvania Dream Act. Fuerza members visited legislators in Harrisburg and shared personal stories, which convinced state education committee chair Senator Folmer to support the Pennsylvania Dream Act.
Boat People SOS, a Future Fund grantee, launched Journey Home, a summer program in which young people born in Vietnam and the U.S. spent six weeks learning how to organize. Because each generation of immigrants has a different experience, Boat People SOS encourages intergenerational dialogue. According to youth organizer Duong Ly, “Youth went out to the community and heard from older folks about stories of immigration, stories of struggle in Vietnam and in the U.S., and a lot of the youth were really touched by those stories.”
Youth organizers from across the city are also connecting with each other and working together to make their voices louder. In September, PSU, Fuerza members, and Youth United for Change staged an action outside of a conference for corporate education reform. The group members gathered together to conceptualize and plan the “Bring the Noise” action, which included noisemakers, music, dance, and a piñata.
Many other young people are joining the fight for social change by getting involved in Bread & Roses grantee organizations. Phoebus Criminal Justice Initiative grantee Youth Arts & Self-empowerment Project hires young formerly incarcerated people as organizers and leaders. Racial & Economic Justice Fund grantee Asian Americans United offers youth-led workshops on school violence and oppression. Norris Square Neighborhood Project is using their recent Future Fund grant to organize young people to develop a violence prevention plan within the Kensington community.
Young people’s lives are being deeply altered by school budget cuts, debt, and unemployment. They’ve responded by reaching out to their peers, getting organized, and advocating for themselves in the face of serious challenges. With your help, their voices are being heard, and the next generation is beginning to lead a real movement for change.
Cristobal Valencia, Karla Rojas, and Gisela Hernandez are featured in the Juntos “Free2Dream” campaign. Photo credit: Jose Mazariegos/Nicholas Ramsey.