Young People Show the Way

I do wide world change work through the National Coalition Building Institute (NCBI). A while ago, I led a workshop with a dozen young people who were mostly people of colour. Recently part of the funding for their program was threatened unless they accepted an adult advisory board for their organization. They had a meeting with the group of adults who wanted to "support" them. Things did not go well. The young people proposed that they would choose the adults whom they wanted on the board. The adults were indignant and started acting very oppressive.

The group has an adult coordinator who has done a good job of supporting the young people. I have built a relationship with her. She is quite excited about NCBI and wants to get involved. She phoned me when the meeting went so badly. I went over and spent an hour with her and gave her a session. She had some great insights, and we planned together how she would handle the young people's meeting that night. She had them work in pairs to "blow off" their feelings about what had happened the night before, and they spent good amounts of time listening to each other. At the end of the meeting they decided they would be compromising all of the goals that they had worked towards as a group if they accepted the oppression for the sake of the funding. It wasn't worth it to them, and so they wrote a letter to the adults, thanking them for their interest and support, but saying they would have to decline the conditions, even if it meant losing the funding.

I was amazed at their courage. What a great model for me. They have no plans to let their group disintegrate. I won't be the least bit surprised if the adults come back.

Janet Gasparini
Sudbury, Ontario, Canada

Last modified: 2017-05-06 23:35:41-07