Youth Undoing Racism, Westchester County

Sorry it has been a while since my last update folks.  A lot has been happening in the organizing, especially since Hurricane Sandy.  I am so impressed by all of you and your ability to come together and support each other during such a challenging time.

For now, I’d really love to go back from a moment to October, and an AMAZING organizing event that happened in Westchester, NY.

(Feel free to scroll down and check out pictures from the event, an earlier post)

Lead organizers David Peters and Cyndi Carnaghi brought together 55 participants for a Youth Undoing Racism Workshop.  As I am sure you are all thinking- this is a HUGE deal!  David even said that this was an SAT weekend for some youth in Westchester, making this number incredible!

Cyndi and David focused their efforts on kids who had some involvement with DSS, as well as doing outreach to local High Schools, organizing with career center programming there.  The result was a 3 day workshop with youth, parents and local businesses collaborating to educate and inspire these young people.  Because of such great attendance and the participation of 6 URW trainers, participants were split into two classes for more in depth discussions and reflection.

Upon completion of the workshop, a number of these amazing youth decided to continue organizing by beginning a 13 week session follow-up.  They have been meeting on Mondays for 90 minute group sessions where they have the opportunity to practice and gain anti-racism organizing skills through lecture, group work, film and activities.  Topics they have been or will be looking into include: housing, law enforcement, education, their personal schools, political processes, and the prison industry.  What I find particularly appealing about this endeavor is that these sessions are youth-led, giving these youth the opportunity to research, develop and lead their own work.  Adult organizers who attend serve as mentors, rather than facilitators, so that youth can feel empowered and take ownership of their powerful learning and leading.

The goal of these sessions (get ready for this, because it is so awesome) is to use the work done by this committed group of young organizers to come up with a draft curriculum for a Freedom School.  This school would be associated with URW, and would be a space for youth to be exposed to social justice organizing in an ongoing way.  This Freedom School would be modeled after one already in existence, the Tyree Scott Freedom School in Seattle, WA.  Dustin Washington and the American Friends Service Committee (a Quaker organization) have created and held this Freedom School for over a decade, and provide an excellent archetype for creating one right here in Westchester county.

To read more about the Tyree Scott Freedom School, this is one of the only times I would recommend using Wikipedia.

As if all this wasn’t enough excitement and cause for celebration, there is one more deeply compelling piece to this story of hope.

Although these EXTRAORDINARY youth organizers and their parents, David and Cyndi, and the workshop facilitators were the primary participants in the 3 day workshop, I was deeply moved to learn that this workshop existed largely through a staggering amount of community support.  These organizations provided financial support, as well as collaboration for advertising.  In the case of The Bethesda Baptist Church where the workshop was held, the meeting space was donated free of charge.  And AJ’s Burgers and Neil’s Cafe? Well they donated lunch for both days of the training- for free!  I couldn’t believe how much the community of New Rochelle, and greater Westchester County, were not only willing to get on board here, but really pitch in and help.

In gratitude for their collaboration:

The Westchester Department of Community Mental Health

The Department of Social Services

The Guidance Center of Westchester

The Businesses of New Rochelle

The Bethesda Baptist Church of New Rochelle

AJ’s Burgers & America’s Favorite Foods, New Rochelle

Neil’s Cafe, Caribbean and Soul Food, New Rochelle

All in all, this workshop is awe inspiring.   It shows the power of community collaborations and support, intergenerational wisdom and sharing, and youth coming together to change the world.  This is one of the most exciting organizing initiatives I have seen, and I can’t wait to see what happens next for them.

For more information about this initiative, or if you would like to get involved, please visit the Youth Undoing Racism Westchester County facebook page.

Congratulations to you all– this is STELLAR!!!

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1 Comment

  1. Sandra Bernabei

     /  December 2, 2012

    Hope for our future!


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