There is power in community, comradery, and collaboration. All of this and more was found in the YP4 Cleveland Regional Training I attended, acting as an opportunity for activists to be able to engage with other organizers representing many states, countries, fields, and approaches to justice.

Class photo from YP4 Cleveland Fellows
Class photo from YP4 Cleveland Fellows

Regional Training is a chance for groups of young people doing work in the progressive movement that have been accepted to the Fellowship program can converge. We spent the weekend learning about the importance of telling our stories, recognizing intersectionality in our work, recognizing our values, identifying the causes to the issues that we passionately fight against, and ultimately creating our plans to approach social change by utilizing our strengths. Regional Training is a moment where young folks who have found their way into progressive work through their passions are able to be fed. We all got the chance to learn new topics, refresh ourselves on topics, and remember that at the root of these issues are systems reinforcing them and people affected by them.

We concluded our training by starting the phases of developing our Breakthrough Blueprints for Social Justice- a sustainable and community-based project to address a need we identify in our community- and identifying areas that we wish to grow in our leadership and personhood. I do not doubt that we all left feeling empowered to do even more transformative work in our communities; with the support of 1,000s of other people, knowledgeable staff committed to seeing our work change lives, and access to resources we only dreamed of before.

In between our workshops I was surprised by everyone’s genuine desire to be present, engaged, and vulnerable. We recognized that we each were both experts and novices. No-one was above critique, and no-one was undeserving of respect. We were able to see what a space that places genuine love and mutual respect could look like when everyone believes that it is possible. There is something unique and nourishing to your spirit as someone one committed to service and social change to find a group of people with similar charge. It reminds us that it is possible to create a community and a world where bigotry is not tolerated, where people embrace and celebrate difference. It is not just something done in word only. It is done in action. Suddenly you find yourself in the same space that you’ve dreamt of, and that has encouraged so much of your actions and philosophies.

Communities of justice are like gardens. At regional training, we spent our time nourishing each other. We made sure that we encouraged honesty and listened to the concerns of one another. We remember that across all of our states, campuses, and communities our work in the progressive movement is significant. As young people doing work within the progressive movement, we realize that we are unified in our desire to speak out against oppression. As we held hands on our last night there was a surge. There was a charge placed in all of us. We held hands in solidarity and unspoken vow. We can go into our respective communities and flower these same spaces. The words of Assatta Shakur shook the space as we took them up ourselves. We live by these words, and make a commitment not only to ourselves, but to one another.

It is our duty to fight for our freedom.

It is our duty to win.

We must love each other and support each other.

We have nothing to lose but our chains.