Refined and Fly

Friday, April 21, 2006


Peace. Todays' mathematics is wisdom knowledge all being born to understanding. When you are able to communicate what you know through wise words, ways and actions, a person may have a crystal clear understanding of where you're coming from and be drawn to you and eventually, your universe. Through your wisdom, you can bring someone to the point where they will be a seeker of knowledge. It's just like you telling someone that there is no mystery God or that Starburst has pork in it, and depending on how you explain yourself, they will go study and research information to either prove you right or wrong. Their findings may bring them to a new understanding about themselves and their relationship to all people, places and things they encounter.

When a person says "I understand what you're saying," a lot of times, they really mean that they heard you. When I am working with the children, and I correct them on something they may have done that is not right and exact, for example, running in the hallway, I explain to them why it is important not to run (someone can get hurt), and after all of the explanations, I ask them " Do you understand," and they answer, "Yes." If I catch them five minutes later running down the hallway, then they do not understand, and still have a what?Misunderstanding. Why? Because to come to a understanding, you must first have what? Knowledge and wisdom. So this means that it will be clear that understanding is taking place because you know what you are and are not supposed to do, and I can clearly see a change in your behavior, meaning, you will not run down the hallway. The theory must be practiced to show me that you "get it." If you do not get it, I have to continue to communicate what I know in different ways (and serve justice when needed) until you do.

These are questions I have to ask myself, especially on this day:

How well do I communicate what I know?

How do I know that my methods work?

What are the results?

What is the outcome? Can I measure it? How?

What is the fruit of my labor?

These are also questions relevant to what may be called, "youth organizing." From the Soweto uprisings in South Africa to the Black Panter Party, the Civil Rights Movement, SNCC, etc., these movements and organizations were lead by and had a large membership of young people. How do we continue the legacy of getting youth involved in organizing and figthing for social justice? These are questions that have been raised in countless commentaries, talk radio shows, and conferences, and usually the conversation takes place amongst those who are not considered "young people." Every time I attend an event with a prominent guest speaker, from Fred Hampton Jr. to Elaine Brown to attending the Hip Hop Political Convention in New Jersey, and others, I always ask the same questions: "What are the best practices of strategies and tactics that you use to empower, politicize, and mobilize young people (specifically youth ages 14-24)? What do you do or have you done that has worked?" When I ask these questions, I usually am looking for clear and concrete solutions that I can write down and apply because you can learn from those that have done and are doing what you strive to do. What were your teaching methods? What kind of events did you have? What is your blueprint? What did it take to interest, motivate, maintain, and sustain the youth involved? What were your challenges?

After recieving many general answers, I realized that a) They don't know what to do in 2006 or b) It is difficult to articulate what they know works and it is something that they just do. What I do know is that during these events, we need more of a presence of those "distressed youth" that we are always referencing (and I know this is a difficult task). Their voice is noticably absent and we end up "preachin' to the choir." As much of a learning experience as it was, when I went to the Hip Hop Political Convention, it largely consisted of youth organizers who were already invested in youth organizing, meanwhile the youth that we were speaking of were right outside on the main strip eatin' water ices and shootin' the breeze. I wanted to hear what they had to say.

Now I acknowledge that there are people who do work tirelessly with these youth and who have dedicated their lives to educating and empowering, and they may not make it to said conference or event because they are busy doing what they do. I also acknowledge that there is not necessarily one strategy for people who live in different locations who came up in vastly different cultures. In some places, for instance, Power Born, it is very territorial and there are definitely gatekeepers in the community who are suspicious of you and your good intentions, especially if you are not from that area. There are class, language, socio-economic, cultural, ethnic and experience-based challenges that make it increasingly difficult to penetrate a community. It takes hard work and dedication to the people and places you are trying to work with. You have to earn people's trust, by them seeing that you have a vested interest in what happens to them. Unless you live in that space, folks may see you as someone who always has an option to leave, whereas they grew up in and will continue to live in the condition that defines that area.

With all that said, there are young people across the country who are striving to change their communities through clearly defined processes that seem to work for them. I am always suspicious when hearing about organizations and looking at web-sites because I know that what is presented is just a snapshot, and sometimes things are not always what they seem to be. I especially like to look at the pictures to study the organizational make up. Does the organization actually contain a good number of their stated constituency (the people they are advocating for); is the leadership organic to the area and experience of that constituency? Does it consist of as my executive director calls them, "your regular yo-ho people from the hood" (classic!) who were educated and empowered to change the conditions of their communities or does it consist of "outsiders" (people who were already interested in working for change and have no tangible relationship to the environment or experience of those they want to serve, therefore their effect may be limited because they are not "of the people?"

In this era of programming (everybody has a program!) and organizing (everybody has an organization!), people can imbellish a bit to try show and prove the success of the organization. B.U.T. I see success as very practical...was anything produced from the work done? Did anyone or anything change? Was anyone drawn in to the vision enough to add on? In the Nation of Gods and Earths, we are taught that once knowledge is born, the knowledge has to add a cipher. Meaning, once you have made your internal transformation, there is an external manifestation of that. You grow and develop, and then you teach, you build, you share, you create or add on to a community.

Although we are not going to be able to "program" our way out of the mess we are all in, effective programs and organizations can serve as building blocks toward a larger goal. Just continue to keep the larger goal in site. Growth has to take place. If programs and organizations are your lane, connect with other like-minded and like-doing organizations to share resources, access each others' membership, base and constituency and try to build a critical mass to create movement. I give it up to the Mexicans who are organizing and protesting the Immigration Laws. There is power in numbers, and although I am sure they do not agree on everything, nor do the supporters and protesters consist of only Mexicans, they were able to come together by the hundreds of thousands in a show of Operational Unity, working for one common cause. And they will get results, one way or another.

The Bay Area with all of its' complexities is a hot-bead for innovative programming and organizing that reaches across diverse populations and has produced some changes in policy, school districts, and are striving to change systems. Some things may be applicable to you where you rest, some things may not be, and some things may be shaped and molded to be useful to your cipher. All of these resources listed below were retrieved from the web-site of an Oakland, CA based organization called SOUL (School of Unity and that works to create a movement of young people across many boundaries to organize for social change. Just think, if there are all of these organizations in the Bay Area (probably not an exhaustive list either), then there are thousands across the country. I build that all of these groups are and continue to postiviely impact those who need it the most.

Youth Organizing in the Bay Area
AIWA’s Youth Build Immigrant Power -
Asian Pacific Environmental Network’s (APEN) Laotian Organizing Project: (LOP) -
Californians for Justice -
Center for Young Women’s Development -
Communities for a Better Environment’s Youth for Environmental Justice -
KidsFirst!’s REAL HARD -
Leadership Excellence -
Let’s Get Free! -
Youth Making a Change / Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth -
Youth Together -

Organizations that Support Youth Organizing
Community Justice Network for Youth - www.cjny.orgDataCenter -
Funders Collaborative on Youth Organizing -
Highlander Research and Education Center - www.hrec.orgLISTEN, Inc. -
Movement Strategy Center -
Southeast Regional Economic Justice Network -
Youth Action -
Youth in Focus - www.youthinfocus.netYouth Media Council -

Community Organizing in the Bay Area
AIWA, Asian Immigrant Women’s Advocates -
Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN) -
Communities for a Better Environment -
East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE) -
Just Cause Oakland -
Malcolm X Grassroots Movement -
POWER, People Organized to Win Employment Rights -
San Francisco Day Labor Program -
St. Peter's Housing Committee - Phone 415.487.9203 (No website currently available)

Other Bay Area Social Justice Organizations
Applied Research Center -
Center for Third World Organizing -
Coalition on Homelessness -
Ella Baker Center for Human Rights (EBC) -
Generation Five -
Ruckus Society -
The Women’s Building -
War Times -

*Although its' not based out of the Bay Area, check out Sankofa Community Empowerment, Inc. ( It's an organization I have been a part of for the past 4 years and we have similar goals and objectives to the aforementioned organizations.



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