On Tuesday afternoon, seven members of New Haven’s Citywide Youth Coalition met in their first online meeting of the year to discuss political education.
Citywide Youth Coalition is an organization that empowers youth in the Elm City to organize and take action on topics that matter to them, such as racial justice and defunding the police. In the past, CWYC has led rallies and protests to uplift the voices of Black and brown youth when addressing issues of systemic racism and police brutality. They have expanded their staff to include more paid youth fellows and new departments, and are now continuing to host events providing support to youth in New Haven.
The meeting opened with Director of Political Education Ta’LannaMonique Miller asking members to share their names, pronouns and something in their home that represented how they felt that afternoon. Shortly after, the conversation moved to discussing identity and community. New Haven Public School students and local college undergraduates engaged in a discussion about their childhood backgrounds and highlighted groups they felt provided them with a sense of belonging.
“We can change policy and laws, but if we’re not changing hearts and minds, we can get everything we’re asking for — but what are we going do with it?” Miller told the News in an interview.
Miller said that political education was essential because it further teaches youth how to “dismantle” systems of oppression and learn how they operate. To this end, CWYC has opened a new department –– Political Education –– so that New Haven and Connecticut youth can learn how to organize. Miller said that through the coalition, members will also be welcomed into a like-minded community.
Efrencheli Ducos Rivera, a youth activist and fellow with the CWYC, told members that the organization “is a space where we want to hear about everything about your life.” Ducos Rivera said that in the past, the group has organized multiple community events –– such as health initiatives for Black and brown students and a “Privilege Walk” aimed at raising awareness about inherent inequalities between individuals. Ducos Rivera emphasized that while the group does participate in organizing protests, they also have a strong focus on addressing youth struggles.
Alicia Gopal, a high school student, said she found out about the CWYC through youth court events in New Haven. She joined this summer as a result of community Black Lives Matter events.
“I wanted to do some of the voting/census groundwork to get people signed up in the New Haven area,” Gopal said.
Gopal recommended attendees read “Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin, which Miller said they would read for their next meeting.
Ducos Rivera also emphasized that the heart of CWYC was “youth-run and youth-led,” and said that their community had been built through shared identities and tradition. The meeting on Tuesday continued with participants discussing their individual experiences with the education system, generational trauma and multi-racial identity.
Miller told the News she hopes the future brings the group on to “bigger and better things.”
Political education meetings convene weekly on Tuesdays at 3:30 p.m. via Zoom.
Zaporah Price | firstname.lastname@example.org
Ángela Pérez | email@example.com