In August 2021, Merced youth successfully advocate for a policy to protect street vendors.
We want to live in a world where everyone – and especially Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) – have the means and support to thrive. We believe in self-determination – that all people should be able to decide for themselves what thriving looks like, and that they should have the power and the resources to manifest that vision. This would require that people of all identities and backgrounds be fairly represented at decision-making tables to shape the rules that impact them.
Because white supremacy is so deeply ingrained in our society, rooting it out will require replacing, recreating and reinventing every aspect of life. We can start by addressing inequities in our education system and empower our youth with language and framing to understand and articulate what is happening to them and why, so that they can develop their own solutions.
We stand with the movements for reparations, defunding the police, and abolishing the prison industrial complex, among others, that demand an end to state-sanctioned violence and call for a redistribution of wealth, transformative justice and healing for our communities. We advocate alongside our youth to create policies that move us toward equity in every field.
There is no “neutral” when it comes to oppression. Dismantling white supremacy requires us to call it out wherever we find it – both at the interpersonal and systemic levels. It requires us to lift up BIPOC voices and ensure that they are leading efforts to heal harm, return stolen land and wealth, and shape new life-affirming systems and structures.
The end goal of changing systems is liberation. At yli, we pursue this dream of liberation externally, through community change campaigns, and internally, through the transformation of our youth and ourselves.
Built on stolen Indigenous land and off of the sweat and blood of enslaved Africans, the United States is founded on white supremacy – a racial hierarchy that places “white” people at the top and “black” people at the bottom. This system of beliefs and practices erases and destroys the humanity of Black people, and systematically exploits and marginalizes them in every aspect of life. It is deeply embedded in our policies and institutions, and in our hearts and minds. While other communities of color experience the effects of white supremacy relative to their proximity to whiteness/Blackness, these impacts will never be comparable to the struggles of Black people in the United States.
White supremacy and anti-Blackness shows up in ugly and explicit ways every day and in every environment, from the streets, to our workplaces, to the interwebs. Institutional racism and discrimination against Black people is evident in our courts, our prisons, our entire justice system. It appears subtly as microaggressions meant to remind people of their place in the hierarchy and violently as police brutality, with fatal consequences for the victims. Racism has profound psychological impacts on BIPOC that manifest at the individual and community level. The term “weathering” describes how the long-term effects of racial stress result in a host of health problems and shortened life expectancy for BIPOC.
White supremacy is not just interpersonal – it is also systemic, starting with access to and quality of healthcare to the physical layout of our cities that locate polluting factories in communities of color, and beautiful parks and playgrounds in affluent white neighborhoods. The disparities in education – from which schools get funding, to what gets taught, to who gets suspended and who gets selected for special programming – ensure that white youth have every opportunity while BIPOC youth are funneled into the prison industrial complex. Economic racism – which appears in job discrimination, and lack of access to affordable housing and transportation – allows for the accumulation and hoarding of resources in white communities. And mainstream media ensures that all of these disparities are normalized by bombarding our brains with images and information that uphold the status quo.
Forced to compete for scarce resources, communities of color absorb the harmful narratives of white supremacy and deep divisions are created as they fight for the good graces of those in power.
Timeline of Wins in Racial Justice
Youth urge City Council members to uplift the Reimagining Public Safety Task Force recommendations that were prioritized by the Oakland City Council.
In collaboration with youth and adult allies in the African-American community, yli hosted a virtual Black History Month series to uplift Black voices of change in tobacco control, literacy, and leadership.
Madera Youth Commission begins a series of educational cooking classes to explore our cultural, historical and geographical relationships to food.
Madera Youth Commission places a land acknowledgement on their official meeting agendas.
Fresno BMOC hosts Art Hop gallery featuring stories of their experiences (and struggles) with mental health.
During the Lights for Liberty vigil – a nationwide event to protest inhumane conditions faced by refugees, asylum seekers and other immigrants – Program Coordinator Rubi Salazar shares their experience as an event speaker. Read the story here!
VoiceWaves Youth Reporters share findings of the My Brother’s Keeper youth survey and documentary focused on young people’s experiences with the juvenile justice system.
In partnership with 99Rootz, Girls & Womyn of Color successfully advocated for a change to Merced Union High School’s regulations for graduation attire to ensure indigenous students’ rights to wear cultural regalia and adornments.
Coachella Uninc. youth filmmakers present Estamos Aquí: A Community Documentary at the California Institute for Rural Studies’ Rural Justice Summit in Merced, CA.