Being 19/ 20 years old at the time I was fueled in an indescribable way by your work to put the mass in mass movement. These are my reflections on Prop 21 and thanks to you. Youth built the Prop 21 movement with tenacity and political clarity of those most affected. Memories of Prop 21 days are some of my most inspirational political memories even though it hurt bad to loose after working so hard, feeling so strong. I can only imagine if we had Facebook and MySpace, it woulda been even more off the rickter. Youth led walkouts, marches, speak outs, lobby visits, voter registration efforts, all bringing me to some of the lessons I took with me...
Role of culture in mass mobilization
Key to the Irresistibility of our Movement
The cultural work surrounding this fight was off the chain! I remember rallies that weren’t boring with hella speeches and reiterating the problem but were concerts, M.C. battles, graffiti battles. They were live! They were fun to be at, something you wanted to bring your friends too, even the ones who be like F*that I’m just doing me. The performers were people we looked up to, representing the crowd. Songs that came out had us singing Don’t Explain while riding the 40 bus line. The posters were so fresh people kept one to put in their crib and the rest went up anywhere folks could get 'em. I firmly believe the role and uses of culture at this time were essential to the mass involvement as well as general positive feelings of being in movement space at that time. Underground Railroad as an organization of revolutionary artists provided an example of artists working together in an organized way that I hadn’t seen before and haven’t since, outside of Blue Magazine and Ave. Magazine in NYC those having closed shop eventually as well. I think this is a huge need that is yet to be addressed and hinders us today.
Role of coalitional work
Youth Force Coalition in the F* house!
Folks working together! This made it possible to organize a mass, that felt like a mass, in a megalopolis as well as a way for everyone to be seen a valid/having a role. Macehuali (Olin at the time) rolled hella hard with the indigenous/Mexican@/chican@ youth, Standing Together to Organize a Revolutionary Movement (STORM) rolled hella hard with general young adult POCs, the Revolutionary Communist Party organized in Oakland High Schools with their Free Mumia work, 3rd World Liberation Front rolled UB Berkeley students of color deep, 3rd Eye Movement plugged in the young hood from Frisco and 3rd Eye 510 from the town (Oakland), Jewish Youth for Community Action (JYCA) plugged in the young mostly white Jewish kids from around the bay, C-Beyond plugged in a working class white and POC youth from the suburbs of the bay, Raj and Debug held down the South Bay. The School of Unity and Liberation (SOUL) provided spaces to develop our political consciousness and further develop our relationships with each other through training in our coalitional space and Sunday School sessions focused on varying international political histories.
Through a collation that had one part-time staff and many volunteers Youth Force Coalition was a collective expression of our power, hopes, determination and dreams. There was beef with-in all of this of course but I wasn’t close enough to it or political developed enough to see it’s expressions outside of particular groups stopping to attend or not attending Youth Force meetings. In the streets we were all there together and that’s what I remember most and really cared about. As young folks we were like this shit is FLY and there was LOVE between the masses of us. Thinking back I give props to my organizers for never fostering diversionary thinking in me. I was never told to hate on anybody. This is a lesson for us within its self, to fight our real enemies and foster a healthy distain for oppressors/the system not freedom fighters, even if someone acts like an asshole sometime cuz we all do.
A youth movement can’t do it alone
We Are IT the BEST, the LEADERS, the SHIzNIT…basically
AIN’T NO POWER LIKE THE POWER OF THE YOUTH & THE POWER OF THE YOUTH DON’T STOP sayyyyyy whatttttt AIN’T NO POWER LIKE THE POWER OF THE YOUTH & THE POWER OF THE YOUTH DON’T STOP sayyyyyy whatttttt. I remember chanting until I couldn’t speak for days. I remember chanting into the bullhorn getting everyone pumped, the crowd jumping up and down like we were on trampoline streets. I remember the centering of youth as the future, that youth are always the leading force in social change movements; we were trained in a way that kinda made some of us youth big head crazy, meaning we knew was the shit and that’s that. Not a difficult place to work from as a youth, in fact it felt empowering but it was too narrow a view. Too narrow as far as our role as youth, what it would take to win and helped to hold the disillusionment after we lost. This highlights the necessity to develop youth within an analysis that the youth movement while essential is part of a broader international movement for justice. This way youth see themselves as more connected to communities as a whole (here and globally), youth would have had more places of entry into other movement sectors/organizations that peeked other interests of theirs.
Through a fuller analysis of a movement youth can picture themselves as eventually adults in the struggle, can think of whatever fight they are currently in as part of a progression of oppression and resistance...Too many young folks who were part of the Prop 21 movement, the experience was more off the chain than anything they imagined or had ever seen before. To have defeat at the end of it meant the man was impenetrable. That in fact we had all wasted our time. Which of course is total bullshit but ya know that’s what it is. Key to this dynamic was a lack of relationship to our elders in the struggle. If we had more spaces to dialog with elders, not 30 something’s, but OG's who were 50/60+ I think that would have strengthened our youthful understanding of Prop 21 as not static in time, not a standalone fight. The elders probably coulda helped us on some other strategic thinking as well...
CA has red state tendencies
5 Districts isn’t CA, Proof of Lesson Learned
We built fierce presence, organizing, and consciousness in the Bay Area and somewhat in Los Angeles and but we got killed throughout the rest of this mammoth state. If this was a local election we woulda won so big we’d still be cheesing. We didn’t have the analysis that was in the forefront of the tactics of the civil rights movement and the tactics the right uses, we didn’t bus ourselves/organize outside our bubble. It’s a huge bubble that took everything and then some to cover and organize but simply we lost this fight in the areas most conservative, in the areas we never door knocked, in the areas of white flight and conservative POC churches, we lost in all but 5 districts with a final tally of 62.1% Yes and 37.9% No.
While that is almost half of the voting population of the state we were hurt hugely by a somewhat insular local strategy. Many of the same folks that were active for justice 10 years ago still are. And many of us remembered this lesson when we built a movement to defeat Prop. 6 in our last CA state wide elections. The deliberate work to reach the central valley though Spanish language press, our inter-faith work to reach churches and there bases throughout the state, the mailings and work with the teachers and fire fighters unions throughout the state made it possible for us to defeat the most recent throw 'em in jail proposition. It felt good to see our growth, to remember our legacies and to F* win that time around.
Community Is What Sustains Us
Most of all I am so appreciative of the opportunity to learn so much from and build so deeply with incredible people. As a confused, radical, energetic, mixed race, G.E.D. having, poor, butch/flat top sporting young knuckle head I was taking seriously. I was treated with respect and what I had to offer was respected. The mentorship provided by people like me yet slightly older gave me an amazing portal into what I hoped to be my future.
Tony Colman, Omani Imani, Sake 1, Patty Burn, Raquel Lavina, Steve Williams, Rene Quinones, Cindy Wisner, Genevieve Negron-Gonzales, Jay Imani, Favianna Rodriguez, Van Jones, Adam Gold, Joy Enomoto, Jason Negron-Gonzales, Marisol, Anita DeAsis, Jaron Brown and Maria Poblet thank you for helping me realize my future could go beyond my block and for seeing me as a butting intellectual and community organizer. The other leaders who were under 21 at the time Jasmine Barker, Jesse Osorio, Charisse Domingo, Nancy Hernandez, Rory, Aleks Zavaleta, Pacolia, Rosi Nieves, Venus Rodriguez, red haired Katie, Tina Bartolome AND HELLA MORE OF US you made me believe in possibility and myself. In this all I think there’s a lesson. You all have seen and/or personally had to experience the joys and sorrows of my growth and failures and for the most part are still in close community to me.
Our grace with one another and ability to allow each other to transform must be one of the foundations of our work. Without you, I don’t know if I’d be alive yet alone here in the field working for our liberation. Without our collective we are truly alone and we need each other, our people need us and this world very clearly needs us. Thank you for all you did and continue to do.