As a young black womyn growing up in a quickly gentrifying community, experiencing systemic and institutional oppression, like so many of my peers, I found myself drowning. I was lucky enough to find a home in the Youth Power Project (YPP) of MRNY where I was able to begin my re-education and reintegration into my community that I had been living in, but also felt hidden from. YPP was and still remains my family where I learned key principles and values essential to any leader – trust, compassion, honesty, accountability, self-love and sustainability. All exactly in that order.
As a member of MRNY, I found myself working collaboratively with my peers and organizers to coordinate local, citywide, and national youth organizing events through the Urban Youth Collaborative (UYC) and the Alliance for Educational Justice (AEJ). A few years later, I had the amazing opportunity to become part of the YPP team as an organizer on staff. MRNY at the time was the coordinating anchor organization of AEJ. I took on the role of event planning and logistics for AEJ national convenings at 19 years old. MRNY saw leadership and skills that I didn’t even realize were being cultivated in myself at the time. With each convening wanting to meet the needs of all the communities that I would be serving I was committed to making sure that each convening, meeting, training, action, youth networking event was better than the last and it was. This was one of the many moments during my organizing career where I remember feeling, seeing, and embracing joy from a job well done. While wearing my coordinating and logistics hat, I also still had to show up as an organizer and support the young people.
The extension of trust, compassion, honesty, and accountability that was given to me as a youth leader was critical to my successful experience as an organizer. I also realized the importance of cultivating self love and learning to be more sustainable if I was going to continue to want to serve my community for the long haul. I had the opportunity to further my professional development by participating in an 11 week intensive training: Leaders for Embodied Organizing (LEO), with Rusia Mohiuddin from Universal Partnership. LEO was the integration of somatics & organizing skills. It was exactly what I needed. I came back from the training ready, grounded, and understanding just exactly how I wanted to continue to work with young people from various socio economic and health backgrounds within in my community.
2017, I spent it assisting a new local organization in the South Bronx build out their youth program, bring on a permanent staff for the Youth Team, assist in their year long development plan, and assisted in the creation and facilitation of their first ever youth summer program where stipends were raised through a grassroots effort. Even as I have since transitioned out of my role the relationship with the leaders & staff brought on continue to live on.
During this time I was also a student-apprentice of Warrior’s for Embodied Liberation (WEL). WEL is an apprenticeship program developed and lead by Universal Partnership's principle, Rusia Mohiuddin. WEL is a 2-year training program in which the students learn and practice the core methodologies for embodied training and coaching. as a part of their studies, students explore, learn, and develop pieces on our understanding of many things related to change work. One of the first points of entry, into understand the work UP does, is human nature. what is human behavior and how does change happen? It has been and continues to be a privilege to share space with mentors & peers that seek to change the world with integrity, resilience, humor, & love at the center. It is the breath of fresh air & understanding that I have been seeking.
Organizing is a small world and I have had the honor to meet & share space with former Picture the Homeless members (PTH) during my leadership as young organizer. After taking a much needed break and through intentional reflection I felt ready to come back into the organizing movement and I feel lucky to have found another home with Picture the Homeless (PTH). There is already so much richness and authenticity! I am looking forward to sitting, listening, building & creating lasting impactful change with PTH members and staff.