California Youth Pave the Way for Lasting Change

From Little Rock to Soweto and from Tiananmen Square to the Velvet Revolution, young people have always been the groundswell of political and social change around the world.

California, too, is home to many brilliant youth-inspired and youth-engineered solutionaries.

One innovative young person named Leila Assal and her project “Can’t Break Me,”addresses the fear and alienation experienced by a large number of Muslim people in the wake of the recent uptick in hate crimes. A recent data visualization project by New America, a nonpartisan non-profit think tank, found that of the 600 hate crimes committed against Muslims since 2012, California had the total highest number of incidents.

MSA West — Can’t Break Me

Lelia and her peers are organizing self-defense workshops for Muslim students at the UC Berkeley and UC Davis campuses. These workshops teach Muslim students how to defend themselves; how to get out of potentially dangerous situations as safely as possible; how to report incidents when they do occur; and how to combat the emotional and mental trauma that comes in the aftermath.

After learning about the problem, Leila did not wait for someone else to provide a solution. She took the lead and is now helping her community respond directly to their concerns. Similarly, Julia Tello saw a need and decided to fill it.

Julia created She T.H.I.C.C(Transcending Hella Ignorance In Creative Communities) which is an annual community art show by and for Queer Womxn of Color of the Bay Area that features visual art, music, performance, poetry, and crafts by local artists.

Julia wanted to help give agency to queer womxn artists in the Bay who are hard-pressed to find outlets for their work. She understands that art allows individuals to discuss injustices they’ve experienced, helps make the lived experiences of marginalized peoples and communities visible, and creates spaces for silenced stories to be heard.

While many organizing youth may be too young to vote, they are not too young to act. They are surveying their communities and identifying immediate and long-term needs; they are engaging elected officials and decision-makers to address community problems; they are giving a voice to those who are most marginalized; and they are bringing opportunities and resources into their communities.

After our latest round of grant-making through the California Youth Rising Program, we’re excited to lift up some of the young people who are working tirelessly to shape a more resilient, equitable California:

Jiapsi Gomez, BLR: Barrio Logan Roots. Constructs gardens using as many indigenous plants as possible, and specifically designed to clean contaminated air, water, and soil.

Kimmie Tran,MOVE: Asian Pacific Islander Community Organizing Fellowship. Facilitates the pipeline for the new generation of community organizers and expands their community support network to fight for social justice.

Kimmie Tran, Van Sam, Celine Chen, Joanne Yi — MOVE: Asian Pacific Islander Community Organizing Fellowship

Jayden Lim and The Tribal Youth Ambassadors (TYA) of the California Indian Museum and Cultural Center (CIMCC), Advancing Cultural Opportunities to Reclaim Nutrition (ACORN). Reintroduces California Indians’ cultural relationship with acorns, advocates for increasing their consumption of acorns, and advances tribal stewardship of acorn food system landscapes.

Christian Alexander Holguin Zepeda, Level Up Screen Printing Project. Enables young and aspiring graphic artists to make social movement art through mobile screen printing in Southeast San Diego.

Leilani Rose, WAGE ART — Self-Love Portrait Project. Leads workshops that build awareness about how toxic masculinity and femininity impacts our ability to practice self-love.

Yeshahyah Yisrael, SELF-KARE. Provides a safe, vulnerable space for community members of all ages to learn a hands-on approach to self-care.

Do you know a young California youth who has an idea to improve their community but just needs some additional funds and mentorship? If so, please have them complete our interest form, and a member from our Outreach Team will reach out to them if there are funds still available from The California Youth Rising Program.