Between May 6th and 8th, Sacramento was once again was the host of the #freeourdreams Youth Conference. Formerly known as Sisters and Brothers at the Capitol, the event’s name was changed to Free Our Dreams and has become an annual event which is organized by PolicyLink and Movement Strategy Center. Over 250 youth stormed upon the California State Capitol to hold over 100 legislative visits with lawmakers. Topics of interest for discussion included issues about health, safety, and the future success of young people.
The overall purpose of Free Our Dreams is to make sure that the power of the youth voice is one that is strong and to use that power to help change and advance policies and narratives that affect the neighborhoods of the youth by organizing a statewide effort at the State Capitol.
Youth were transported by bus from cities all over California from places like Bakersfield, San Diego, Stockton, Los Angeles and more. Participants were asked to spread the word and to hashtag #freeourdreams on social media accounts. They went to workshops to learn more about the planned march, social injustices and how they can help to overcome them. They took part in legislative training and preparation for their visits At the end of the first full day of events was a “Block Party” where the participants made their own signs for the march and rally, took advantage of a photo booth and got involved in other art and craft activities.
May 8th was the day that the participants were preparing for. The youth boarded their buses and traveled to the capitol with their signs and banners, displaying #freeourdreams. Participants lined up and began to march around the capitol before heading to the Sacramento California Endowment office where they would finish by hearing speeches from senators and youth participants. From there, the legislative visits began. Youth from Bakersfield-based South Kern Sol spoke on SB 68, a senate bill that extends in-state tuition for undocumented students at CSUs and community colleges. They met Ellen Cesaretti, a representative for Assemblymember Dante Acosta. They also spoke about SB 607 which aims to end suspensions for willful defiance.
“At first I felt really thrilled and then I became nervous,” said Jocelyn Cuevas, a participant with South Kern Sol. “I knew I had to be outside my shell.”
After a long weekend of preparation and work, the legislative visits concluded and the participants returned home in their buses. For many participants, the Free Our Dreams event was a fun and unique experience.
“I was sad when it was done,” said Nichole Castillo, a youth participant with Mid-City CAN. “It was a really great and fun opportunity. I got to meet and bond with other sites. I wasn’t ready to go back home. Not yet.”