By: Nicholas Tollardo
I walked into the YES! convening at the Nativo Lodge. This was a convention to encourage youth to enter the world of social justice work. YES! is a group of organizations that hired youth to initiate them into social justice work and to provide summer employment.
I felt a bit outnumbered at first but found from the friendly atmosphere that all of these youth were there for the same reason I was. This was a convening filled with information about how to do the jobs we were hired for. Afterwards, I felt better prepared with all of the useful information that was given to me at this conference.
I was hired by Generation Justice, where I was welcomed with open arms to this new world of social justice work. Along with all of the youth present at this conference, the team leads were exceptional.
One workshop I particularly enjoyed would have to be when we were asked a series of general questions that in the end separate us by class, gender, sexual orientation and naturally born circumstances of life. As these questions were read aloud we were to step forwards or backwards in order to show our status for that question. The main purpose for this game was to teach us by physical movement how general humans can be when judging someone else. Although it was clear that everyone there was clothed, fed, and housed we could now see by our physical positions in the room where each of us had began our lives.
When commenting on our experience with this particular exercise I remember stating aloud that although I had been born into some level of privilege, I was in no way handed anything and, like everyone else in the room, I had to work for what I have now.
In a great way we were all humbled to know that although we had started off in different places, our roads had all lead us to the work of social justice. Many of the presentations were informative and soulful in their choices of words and understanding for what it was we are trying to accomplish.
One speaker stood out to me in particular, and her name is Andrea Serrano. Though the other presenters were fabulous in their own ways, this wonderful lady stole the show.
When opening, she politely yet sternly asked all of us to turn our cell phones off so that she had our full attention. Her attitude and charisma shook the room for me and immediately I was drawn in. She spoke mostly about being a woman of color and her experiences of being silenced. She brought to light the way we are categorized in this world and made clear that she and other were not inferior to anyone else. Through her words of encouragement I found gratitude in knowing that I was part of this group.
This conference was illuminating and informative and gave me an understanding of what this job is and how hard it can be at times. I found great insight on how to manage my time and also how to do social justice work. I really had no idea how to tackle this job and from this convening I took many skills with me. The friends I made and the contacts I have made will be lifelong.