Max Lucado Quote for Reflection by Edwin Rodriguez, Youth Programs Intern

27 Sep

“A man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd.”-Max Lucado

                This quote says a lot about fulfilling what one is entitled to do. In order to do your job, you should focus on what’s most important in that precise moment. I often have trouble focusing at times and this quote gives me a new way of looking at the things I should prioritize. Especially with my position being a youth empowered leader, this quote makes all the more sense on what is most important.

 

                If you want to make changes in your world, focus on the people around you first, your orchestra. Don’t worry about everyone else in the world just yet. Help your orchestra of people understand what change you want to make in the world. Then they will help you in delivering this message to your audience. This relates the most to what my role was/is during Camp Anytown. All of the youth participating learned to understand what changes need to be made, and how to make them. Changes such as fighting bias or bigotry, or bullying are best made with others to help each other out. Focusing on what is most important, each other, will help in the long run.

Image

Van Jones Event at UMASS Amherst

27 Sep

Van Jones Event at UMASS Amherst

Van Jones will be speaking and will be signing books on October 18th. Let us know if you’ll be attending!

YES! Update

19 Sep

Greetings,

It has been just about one year since our initial YES! conference and your NCCJ Youth Leadership team has been working hard. Within the next two weeks, you will find updated information on our www.youthsayyes.org website with activities, tips, and guides for creating safe schools and communities.

Over the last year, we have engaged in focus groups, targeted conversations, met regarding our ideas on a guide for young people, teachers, and allies to use in their schools and community…and most importantly, we continue/d to say YES!

Check out the information and let us know what you think! Send us your pictures, stories, poems, thoughts, ideas, comments, concerns and WHATEVER else you have! We wanted to know how this YES! guide is being used in your schools.

Let’s continue creating safe schools and communities, together!

Yours in community,

~ Youth Programs Office

YAC Social Justice Sleepover by Sarah G.!

27 Jul

Last week on Friday the 20th YAC had its first ever Movie Marathon at our office in Windsor.  With a little over 50 youth in attendance it was certainly a night to remember. We all brought in our favorite foods and set up camp in the main room where we watched V for Vendetta, I AM, and Mean Girls.  The first movie we watched was the ever popular Mean Girls directed by Mark Waters. Even though this movie is a comedy it has a lot of good issues that the youth wanted to talk about. With topics like Sexsim, Racisim, and Homophobia it was a great conversation starter when the movie ended. The main issue we talked about as a whole was cliques and how we all participate in them in some way shape or form. After the conversation concluded some of us went to sleep, others stayed up to watch I AM the second movie on the list, and others went into the conference room for conversation. At this point in the evening I went into the conference room for some light conversation with friends. The conversation was anything but light. After Mean Girls the youth myself included wanted to talk about our schools. We brought up the clique problem and how you can recognize where certain cliques go. We also talked about what problems we have in our schools. This conversation made us all think a lot. Personally I saw so much passion in my friends it gave me hope. Everyone had such a great time seeing old friends and making new ones. When all is said and done our first YAC moviethon was a complete success! And before I conclude this entry I would like to give special thanks to Justin Kilian, Edwin Rodriguez, and Rev L.A. McCrae for helping put this event together I could not have done it without you! Also I want to thank all the youth for coming and making this YAC event a success and we look forward to seeing you soon!

An Evening In The Inferno: A Realization By: Justin Killian

26 Jul

 I was 14 when it happen.

I had just entered my freshman year of high school, and with the newfound friends and classes came the inevitable party scene. I remember being so excited to go this first one in particular. I had never been to a real party before. I didn’t have too many friends until the couple of weeks prior, and even then, I was still extremely cautious about who I held close to me. I probably wouldn’t have gone if it hadn’t been for Sarah.
 We stayed close to each other as we ran around the room, pulling strands of colored streamers, wrapping them around columns, tying each other up, making idle party small-talk I would come to know too well. And then-
 “Everyone hide! She’s coming!”
 Everybody sprinted across the vast floor of the McMansion’s basement, opening and slamming doors, looking for a nook to shroud themselves in.
 Sarah and I found ourselves smushed in next to a large piece of machinery in one of the closets (presumably a burner of some sort). One other kid was crammed in with us.
 “Hey look, Sarah! I’m in the closet again!!!”
 “Pfft. Trust me, we could see where you stood before you opened that door, honey.”
 The guy in the closet looked up at us.
 “Wait… You’re gay?”
 “Uh, yeah.”
 “Ugh. Bye. I’m getting out of here.”
 He stomped out.
 I didn’t think much of it.
 A few hours passed by, food was eaten, drinks had been had, and by now everyone had sufficiently warmed up to each other. The dancing had long since begun; We now had a strobe light going in the basement. I switched between working my jam on the dance floor and cooling off outside with a couple friends up until that point. I heard one of my favorite songs turn on.
 “Oooh wait! I love this one! Someone come dance with me!”
 I didn’t wait for a response as I strutted into the stobe. I started to sway with the beat when I saw him. I had noticed him earlier at the party. He had arrived late with a group of boys, and he was wearing a hideously neon orange tank top.
 He made eye contact with me, and in between the staccato flickers of light, I felt something. A vibrating pulse, an abnormal amount of blood swelling up in my arteries, pounding, hot with a sharp edge.
It sounds sensual. It wasn’t.
 I felt the signals flash all over me. Up my neck, around my cranium, across my arms, down my spine, spiraling down my legs.
 Danger.
 I started to edge away in response, but he just kept coming, a glint in his eyes, a wicked smile spreading across his face, jumping up a centimeter or so with every subliminal flash from the strobe.
 Turn.
 He followed.
 Swerve.
 He trailed behind.
 …
 Blend.
 I melted into a crowd of dancing girls and snuck into the shadows, tiptoeing my way around the room in the bathroom.
 My friends were all there. Faithful Sarah, who I had come with, Cianna, a girl I knew from my acting class, Annie, my first friend in kindergarten, and Erin, who’s birthday was being celebrated with this very party.
 The bathroom had become the designated piss and moan site (no pun intended) for the evening. We all sat in the closet-sized washroom and talked about boys, little annoyances, and how we wished those particular couples would just stop making out.
 After awhile, I brought up what had happened only moments before.
 Erin and Annie exclaimed about how weird that was, Sarah sat there with a strange look on her face, and Cianna slipped out, stoney-faced.
 We sat there for a bit longer and moved on to the next topic, not really paying it much mind.
 Then the music stopped.
 The yelling began.
 We all exchanged looks of confusion and piled out of the bathroom, the noise reverberating off the plastic walls from the outdoor patio.
 I walked out with the rest of them to find Cianna yelling her head off, swearing at the group of boys, namely the one in the orange tank top. They would retort back at her every once in awhile, but she would cut them off and continue her raging. After a bit of this back and forth, they got up and left.
 She marched back to our spot with a fire in her eyes. When I asked her what had happened, she looked at me straight in the eye with the intensity of a hawk.
 “They made bets that he could get you to suck his dick.”
 I stood there, shocked. My nerves were correct.
 I had evaded danger.
 I had evaded rape.
 This wouldn’t strike me until much later. Throughout the next year and a half, several of my friends would be raped, harassed, or abused by men, some of them being boyfriends.
 It wouldn’t be until I read Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo that I would even begin to realize what had happened to me.
 The main character, Lisbeth Salander, spends a good half of the book plotting and carrying out revenge on her rapist and other “men who hate women”. She instantly became an idol to me. I strived for her dramatic, rough, spiky exterior that steered so many potential evils away from her.
I didn’t truly know about my almost-rape until I was helping a friend with her own insecurities and fears, all due to her position in life as a woman. I recounted the tale for her, and with every word, clarity grew, until I realized what I was saying.
And then it was over.
For the next two months, my depressive disorder was aggravated by this realization, and I was quite unhappy.
I would fall prey to two more similar experiences of molestation.
How could there be such evil in one place?
How many rapists were out there?
Who would their next victims be?
What would I do about the rapists I knew were walking around in my very town?
How could I stop them?
Could I take legal action?
What if that failed?
Would they try to kill me if they knew I had tried to reveal their evil secrets to the world?
Would I, or the people I loved, ever be safe again?
All these dark thoughts dissolved my insides and ate away at my framework, weeks upon weeks.
And then it hit me.
Just as swiftly as I had realized that somebody had tried to physically violate me, I realized that there was also someone there who cared. Someone stood up for me, vouched for me, fought for me until the evil was gone.
I thought of the oft-quoted mantra at the candlelight ritual at every Anytown Culture Night.
“And then they came for me. I looked around, waiting for someone to speak up. But all those who could speak up were gone.”
I could’ve been another casualty, another number amongst those who suffered at the hands of hate.
But I wasn’t.
Someone stood up and spoke for me where my voice would not be heard.
And I was saved from an unimaginable horror.
The combination of these two ideas helped form the idea of community. Not the kind of community you think of. No bright cars out of the ‘60’s passing by each other in the center of town, their drivers waving to each other in neighborly recognition. No picture-perfect Harriet and Ozzy families eating lunch together at a restaurant. No amateur theatre productions put on at the town hall, or bake-sales, or Counsel meetings.
People loving each other.
People investing in one another.
People defending this wonderful treasure with all their might.
This is true community. Everyday individuals relying on their fellow human beings for a helping hand, and the precise reverse.
This made me think. Someone stood up for me.
No one had ever done that for me before.
No one’s ever done it since.
I started to really mull it over, applying to my life in a variety of fashions. I assisted in an effort to take down a racist school symbol. I stood up more for the minorities that so often find themselves the butt of every joke.
Perhaps most importantly, I started to reinvigorate old habits of showing goodwill to total strangers. Smiles, waves, and many a hug have been exchanged since.
That’s all we can really ask for.
I will stand up for you, and you will stand up for me.
Why?
Because you are my fellow human being, you are made of the same stuff that I am, we carry the same carbon structure, the same skeleton, the same organs, and that is amazing.
Because so many atoms spark and combust when they brush near each other, but we have not.
Because you have hopes and dreams and aspirations, like me.
Because you mean something to someone out there, just like certain people mean very much to me in my life, and I to them.
Because I like that shirt you’re wearing.
Because you look beautiful today.
Because you look beautiful everyday.
Because we are living in the same moment right now. We are sharing such an intimate moment that is so frequently overlooked by every person every day of every year since time began.
You are alive, and I am alive, and that’s really all the reason I need to love you.
And because I love you, I will not let you be silenced. I will not let anything break this very special connection we share of living in this same conscious space, of breathing the same atoms as each other and your mother and my mother and all other mothers past.

I propose a new definition.

Community (noun) – A group of people aware of each person’s vicarious aliveness, and who honor and affirm that state of aliveness with physical and spoken action.
 
With that, it’s all we’ve ever needed.
Come on. Who wants to join the community with me?

30 Hour Famine Reflection by Edwin Rodriguez

15 May

I participated in the 30 Hour Famine on the weekend of April 27-28th. World Vision’s 30 Hour Famine is an event that is nationwide with the purpose of solving the problem of hunger. The event is held twice a year, and you can sign up at 30hourfamine.org but of course, you don’t need to sign up for the dates and you can participate by yourself.

The 30 Hour Famine is an event where participants must fast for 30 hours. The participant cannot eat anything for an entire 24-hour day, plus an additional 6 hours. They are allowed to drink something, but as for food, the participant can’t eat at all. It seems like a daunting task to those of us who eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day. I can clarify and say that is definitely a difficult task. It’s harder than one would think.

In my experience throughout the day, I saw myself constantly being teased by the food around me, knowing that I wasn’t supposed to eat. For example, there are countless advertisements on the internet, in front of buildings or anywhere else, about fast food. I was noticing these ads more and more as I went on with the fast. I know how bad fast food is, but being so hungry, I just wanted to eat. In your everyday life, it’s simple to just see food that looks good to you, and in the end you just grab it, eat it, and continue your day. We don’t think too much about it. But everything changes once your stomach is in pain. You eat faster, you care less about what it is you’re actually eating, and you don’t care about the cost.

The cost of the food is probably the most important aspect of starvation, I think. Starvation occurs because of a lack of resources. In this country, money is the resource one lacks, causing starvation. Sadly the food industry has now hit the highest prices for food in history. So anyone can be hungry, not just the people in 2nd or 3rd world countries. As World Vision put it: “It’s someone’s daughter, sister, brother…” This is an epidemic and from participating I can see how large it actually is. The fact is a child dies from hunger-related causes every 8 to 12 seconds. During the 30 hours, as I sat there with stomach pains, I realized what it was like to take a walk in the shoes of someone less fortunate than I am. I will definitely be participating in the 30 Hour Famine again next year, in order to show my support to those millions of people who fight to survive every day.

 

30 Hour Famine Reflection by E. K. Rodriguez

14 May

On the weekend of April 27-28th, I participated in the 30 Hour Famine. World Vision’s 30 Hour Famine is an event that is nationwide with the purpose of solving the problem of hunger. The event is held twice a year, and you can sign up at 30hourfamine.org but of course, you don’t need to sign up for the dates and you can participate by yourself.

The 30 Hour Famine is an event where participants must fast for 30 hours. The participant cannot eat anything for an entire day, plus an additional 6 hours. They are allowed to drink something, but as for food, the participant can’t eat at all. It seems like a daunting task to those of us who eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day. I can clarify and say that is definitely a difficult task. It’s harder than one would think it actually is.

In my experience throughout the day, I saw myself constantly being teased by the food around me, knowing that I wasn’t supposed to eat. For example, there are countless advertisements on the internet, in front of buildings or anywhere else, about fast food. I was noticing these ads more and more as I went on with the fast. I know how bad fast food is, but being so hungry, I just wanted to eat. In your everyday life, it’s simple to just see food that looks good to you, and in the end you just grab it, eat it, and continue your day. We don’t think too much about it. But everything changes once your stomach is in pain. You eat faster, you care less about what it is you’re actually eating, and you don’t care about the cost.

The cost of the food is probably the most important aspect of starvation, I think. Because you can’t afford certain food, starvation occurs. Sadly the food industry has now hit the highest prices for food in history. So anyone can be hungry, not just the people in 2nd or 3rd world countries. As World Vision put it: “It’s someone’s daughter, sister, brother…” This is an epidemic and from participating I can see how large it actually is. The fact is a child dies from hunger-related causes every 8 to 12 seconds. During the 30 hours, as I sat there with stomach pains, I realized what it was like to take a walk in the shoes of someone less fortunate than I am. I will definitely be participating in the 30 Hour Famine again next year, in order to show my support to those millions of people who fight to survive every year. 

Megan Landry-Stronger

24 Apr

We here at the office were contacted by a 15-year-old girl who writes her own original songs, named Megan Landry. Megan sent us a very well-done and inspiring song she wrote herself. She is absolutely inspirational and we are glad to be in-touch with such an incredible person! We asked Megan to tell us a little about her opinion on bullying as well as something about herself:

“My bully story is simple. I was the target of mean girl stuff in grade 8 and part of grade 9. It’s an awful feeling not knowing when they will make fun of you and exclude you and give you dirty looks. They used to be my friends. Everybody gets bullied though at some point, it’s a power thing. If you look scared or show it bothers you … your done! I learned that one quickly. And that’s what inspired me to write this song. They will never tear me down. I will only get stronger. I won’t say it doesn’t hurt but I wasn’t going to be anyones victim. I hope my song will give other kids the power “to look right over their heads”. Because in the end bullying is really about power. Why give anyone that satisfaction over you! I didn’t, and I won’t and I hope you don’t either.

Music helps me get through a lot of things, so I write songs. I consider myself an artist as much as I am a musician because I do a lot of other type of artwork. Songwriting and composing music though is what I love the most. I’ve been playing piano since I was four and writing music since I was eleven. I also play some guitar and drums. I’ve won a few songwriting competitions, and I’ve established a fairly good following on YouTube. I’m starting to love the performing side of my music and really enjoy making my own videos.”

Go watch/like her original and talented YouTube videos and support her!

“I’m for truth”

12 Apr

Quote for Daily Reflection

“I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I’m a human being, first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.” ~  Malcolm X

This Malcolm X quote really challenged my previous thoughts which consisted of the fact that there always seems to be an “absolute right” and an “absolute wrong.” After thinking more deeply what about this quote, I can see that this is not the case.  People can see things differently. We are raised in different environments and with different experiences. To achieve truth and justice, we need to ask ourselves what will create a brighter future for all. The goal of youth should be to discuss their thoughts and ideas with each other, no matter how different. After being involved with Anytown for a few years, I discovered that no two people are the same and there will always be different opinions. However, at Camp, even though everyone was different, we were still able to come to conclusions that benefitted the entire group.

Differences are what makes every person unique and what makes them who they are. Everyone should be accepting of these things and come to a conclusion that can benefit everyone. We are here to make the world better for all of us, rather than some of us. I think that the best thing that youth can do is agree to disagree. What we need to do is accept each other for who we are, and when that happens we can benefit humanity as a whole, as Malcolm X said.

By Edwin K. Rodriquez

A Litany for Survival

10 Apr

Rosie A. and I are here in the office thinking about youth empowered social justice movements. Who will speak out for the oppressed and marginalized? Will you?

We share this poem by Audre Lorde as an inspiring guide for our work together.

A LITANY FOR SURVIVAL

For those of us who live at the shoreline
standing upon the constant edges of decision
crucial and alone
for those of us who cannot indulge
the passing dreams of choice
who love in doorways coming and going
in the hours between dawns
looking inward and outward
at once before and after
seeking a now that can breed
futures
like bread in our children’s mouths
so their dreams will not reflect
the death of ours:

For those of us
who were imprinted with fear
like a faint line in the center of our foreheads
learning to be afraid with our mother’s milk
for by this weapon
this illusion of some safety to be found
the heavy-footed hoped to silence us
For all of us
this instant and this triumph
We were never meant to survive.

And when the sun rises we are afraid
it might not remain
when the sun sets we are afraid
it might not rise in the morning
when our stomachs are full we are afraid
of indigestion
when our stomachs are empty we are afraid
we may never eat again
when we are loved we are afraid
love will vanish
when we are alone we are afraid
love will never return
and when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
nor welcomed
but when we are silent
we are still afraid

So it is better to speak
remembering
we were never meant to survive

- Audre Lorde, The Black Unicorn