South Sound Together recently brought together a trio of young people to present their ideas on how to foster and promote community-based solutions for some of the most dangerous problems of our day: Racism, inequality, injustice. South Sound Together, along with several academics from local colleges and universities, held a series of virtual workshops this past fall on its community leadership initiative. As part of the next step in the process, this group recently gathered over video conference March 17 for the organization’s Next Leaders Forum. The forum included the announcement of $40,000 in grant money for proposals that “can increase and help young people participate in civic engagement.”

Three South Sound young people on the Next Leaders panel shared their personal experiences with civic engagement, the challenges they see and their visions for the future.

Isha Hussein, a teenager who is a high school student and a youth organizer with the People’s Assembly of Tacoma, said her first exposure to racism was “in the third grade. There was a group of people working on a (coloring) project. There was this white girl who said, ‘Don’t color him as dark as Isha. No one wants to be as dark as Isha.’ And I cried out of anger and out of fear.” But the experience that “really got me engaged in being a young activist was in sixth grade when I saw everything happening from police brutality to the school-to-prison pipeline in my own middle school. My middle school was called ghetto because it was on Hilltop.” Isha said she wants to study political science in university and become a politician.

Cece Chang is a second-year student at Pacific Lutheran University with a double major in gender sexuality and race studies, and the student government’s diversity director. She said people in authority need to go to communities to witness the spaces where people exist. “You have to train people in power to receive you. … They have to go to the communities and sit in their spaces. It’s exhausting for us to always have to reach out to people to have our voices heard. We need to have people in power who want to and need to go to these spaces. Make it in the classrooms. Make it where people are already at.” Cece plans to go into education as an elementary or high school teacher. 

Miriam McBride is involved with the Black and Indigenous Organizing group of Tacoma, which is focused, they said, on “creating space for healing and intergenerational conversations.” Their preferred vision for the future is seeing “more community safety and accountability when it comes to our queer and trans community members and young people. Our youth are now more openly queer and trans and if they’re not feeling safe in our spaces that’s a problem.”

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