“Youth Against the Hate”
By Fong Tran: Youth Specialist
Asian Resources, Inc.
November 4, 2010
On October 28th, 2010, Organization of Chinese American OCA, Asian Resources Inc ARI and Sacramento City Unified School District SCUSD hosted the second annual “Youth Against the Hate” Hate Crime Forum at C.K. McClatchy. One of 250 youth in attendance, proudly struts around with a sign stating “Free Hugs” and approaches another attendee and says, “we’ve figured out how to eliminate all hate crimes from this world, whenever we hear a statement of hate, we’ll hug them ‘till they stop the hate.”
As ideal and unrealistic that may be – this is the incredible power of youth vision. They are able to construct, create and change a world that the conservative minds of adults can comprehend. When the community partners of ARI, OCA and SCUSD were asked to bring to the tradition Hate Crime forum – they figured who else better to teach about Hate Crimes among youth than youth themselves. History would be made when Asian Resources assembled a team of energetic and diverse young leaders and asked them the question: “How do you stop hate?” Through mentoring, resources and program planning; these young people started the first youth orientated Hate Crime forum which was an incredible educational process involving spoken word performances, hate/love related art exhibits called the “Wall of Untold Truth”, an expert panel, and keynote speaker: Assembly member Mike Eng.
These youth would continue their community work beyond the forum and would brand the name of YouthRISE – Youth Representation through Impact, Solidarity and Empowerment. Today, they continue to implement projects and campaigns that they understand to be positive social change to their communities. In the second year of the forum, what started an experiment to see if whether youth could actually take on the reigns of a community project would become a movement of more empowered youth. YouthRISE raised the bar completely by incorporating incredible youth testimony, perspective, and an innovative youth-led educational workshop on hate crimes.
These workshops were created and carried out by YouthRISE members and incorporated interactive discussion based activities. Youth were able to share their personal experiences of being exposed or being affected by incidences of hate. One student, who was a female Muslim, shared her story of how after the attack of 9/11, she was harassed to take her religious headdress off. Some other students that identified themselves as queer stated some of the everyday tensions of being of the standard gender binary. Many students identified some of the everyday struggles of being stereotyped and prejudged. One student shared “I’m not offended by people labeling me as Chinese when I’m not, but rather Chinese teasing me for not having a country because I am Hmong. ‘Go back to where you came from. Oh wait, you don’t have a country! Haha.’ It truly breaks my heart.”
When members of YouthRISE were asked about their inspiration on organizing against hate crimes, they stated that “we must spread the awareness of the realness behind hate crimes and that we have the power to stop them in communities.” Yeezy Yang of YouthRISE stated that, “the most powerful form of combating hate is through love and giving voice to the voiceless.”
This year, hate crime would become a personal issue for YouthRISE as a fellow youth from Hiram Johnson High School would passed due to gang related drive by shooting. Jimmy Le was a youth of Asian Resources Summer Internship Program and he was a peer violence mediator at his school. One of the most powerful demonstrations of unity at the forum was when there was a moment of silence on the behalf of Jimmy.
The incredible day was filled with awareness and conscious social change. One students from C.K. McClatchy named Sydney Lueng wrote in our tumblr that later evening “When I’d discovered the people who’d been hurt by hate it kinda hit me. They were people that were the same age as me and they were expressing their story in song and poetry.” She ended her post saying “I love this event and I know I’ll attend every year <3” . With a response from a young person like that, we know that the mission against hate crime will not stop with the three hours of the forum but it will continue through the hearts and minds that attended.