Clarence Ford, Hatem Mohtaseb, Ruben Elias, Kristian Kim, Tania Pulido, Ruben Canedo

Creating Another World That is Possible: Youth Advancing Belonging

By: Kimberly Rubens

The “Youth Advance Belonging” panel aimed to define and expand on the theme of inter-generational leadership, specifically engaging with the question of how can elders engage youth in civic leadership? The panel brought together youth leaders from different movements working to challenge structures, systems, and institutions that historically and systematically exclude marginalized communities. Panelists explored how youth have been able to identify the failures of these inherited structures, systems, and institutions in ways that have been generative and created space to build practices and spaces of belonging.

Ruben E. Canedo, CE3 Research and Mobilization Coordinator at UC Berkeley, served as the panel’s moderator and opened the session with a moving quote from writer Arundhati Roy: “…She is on her way. I can hear her breathing.” Canedo said this quote reflected his efforts to facilitate a wide-ranging discussion on inviting youth into social justice movements.

Canedo began the discussion by asking the panelists to share their thoughts on the importance of intergenerational leadership. Panelist Tania Pulido, a Community Health Coordinator, said that intergenerational leadership is the only way things can forward. “I find a lot of wisdom by seeking elders,” she said, noting that she is helping put on a play about 1940s Richmond and is particularly interested in what a Renaissance looks like today and how it’s connected to what came before. “I also see myself as the bridge to call youth and elders out when they say ‘out of pocket’ things,” she added.

Each of the youth featured on the panel had an opportunity to discuss the healthy and unhealthy ways in which they are pulled in as the next generation of leaders. Kristian Kim, a member of the Undergraduate Worker’s Union at UC Berkeley, criticized the notion of students attending the “best” public university. “I feel a bit objectified, [it] gets to the “youths’” head - being told that you go to the number one university in the world. This idea of “number one” is a very imperial view of the world,” she said. “It also lends itself to this rootlessness and hopelessness because I can go anywhere or do anything. While it may not be what I do forever, but organizing at Berkeley is what I can do now.”

Before Canedo moved to small group discussion portion of the panel, he asked each of the panelists to share something to Stop and Start doing. The discussants shared:

Clarence Ford: Stop being combative listeners, start being active listeners.

Tania Pulido: Stop assuming, start speaking from lived experiences.

Kristian Kim: Start believing someone the first time they share who they are.

Hatem Mohtaseb: Stop pushing away people who want to organize and who don’t say politically correct things, but start listening and bring people to your side. Also, take your time building relationships.

Throughout the panel, Canedo attempted to “disrupt this bi-directional space” by providing time for honest reflection from both the panelists and audience members. The second half of the panel was devoted to four small group discussion, with a panelist assigned to each. In this space, audience members were invited to reflect and share on their lived experiences in intergenerational leadership. The main takeaways were to pass the baton, hold space for others, and that it is healthy to be honest and vulnerable.

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