On May 25th, George Floyd died at the hands of police in Minneapolis, Minnesota. On May 26th, protests erupted through the city. In the days to follow, protests spread across America and the world, uniting people in demanding justice for George Floyd and an end to police brutality. For Juma youth, most of whom identify as Black, Indigenous, or people of color (commonly referred as BIPOC), the changing world rapidly affected their day-to-day lives as well as their hopes for the future. In an incredibly demanding and overwhelming time, the Juma staff who work directly with youth saw an opportunity to give Juma’s young people a way to make their voices heard, find community together, and learn ways to advocate in this new reality. Together, they created Juma Unites: A panel on community activism.
“The fire was high. We felt that, as a community serving primarily youth of color, it was essential to give them a space to understand the global climate and ways they can help aside from protesting,” explained Ashlee Kelley, Juma Houston’s Social Enterprise Manager. Together, Ashlee along with Juma Seattle’s Enterprise Manager, Armando Ortiz, and other Juma Staff worked to create an online panel event that welcomed Juma youth and staff from across the country and gave them a space to consider the changes taking place in the world. The event also focused on ways youth can advocate for themselves and their communities. The panel featured a diverse group of experts including Tatiana Hofmans, former Executive Assistant at Color of Change, De’Anthony Jones, Neighborhood Services Liaison to San Francisco Mayor London Breed, Laneyce Alexander, a Community Organizer with Tacoma Mutual Aid Collective, Dr. Bryant T. Marks Sr., Chief Equity Officer at the National Training Institute on Race & Equity, Daisy Ozim, Founder of Resilient Wellness & Blockchain for Social Justice, and Jay Schenirer, Sacramento City Councilman.
Prior to the event, Juma program coordinators collected questions for the panelists from youth. The questions ranged in topics from advocating outside of direct protests to wellness in this stressful time to educating and empathizing with differing viewpoints. “As someone who is very politically involved, I saw a lot of our young people downtown when the protests started,” explained Armando. “I wanted to give them additional ways to amplify their voices and Black voices in our community so they can keep being active toward developing change.”
On the day of the event, over forty youth and twenty Juma staff logged in to hear from the panelists and join the conversation. Panelists discussed the youth’s questions, often feeding off of each other’s answers to build a robust dialogue with perspectives from many different backgrounds. The panel was a very positive experience for panelists, Juma staff, and most importantly, Juma youth. “We had a lot of good feedback from the young people; a lot of really positive remarks about being able to hold that space for them…They learned a lot of ways to go beyond just protesting, like in the political realm. We had a really good response over all,” reflected Armando.