Last week, as part of the Food Justice Voices Series, WhyHunger published the first ever Youth Food Justice Zine, which was created by 18 young authors and four social justice activists, one of whom was WhyHunger’s Beatriz Beckford, Co-Director of the Grassroots Action Network. Beatriz’s contributions included an Adult Ally Checklist, outlining how adults can support youth activism, in a meaningful way. You can read Beatriz’s article below, or as part of the zine, which is available as PDF.

Adult Ally Checklist

by Beatriz Beckford

Being an ally to young people is not unlike being an ally to other historically marginalized groups. It takes a deep commitment to being intentional and developing a practice that is both generative and transactional in our interactions with youth and a deep level of accountability to youth when they are not present. It is not easy work, but the benefits of developing a practice of supporting youth and honoring their wisdom and experience builds a kind of transformational leadership that makes our communities stronger and more sustainable, campaigns more effective, and our lives all the more rich. This adult ally checklist is not an exhaustive list, and can at the foundational level provide a few basic best practices for meaningful engagement with youth and powerful youth adult partnerships.

  • Acknowledge and check your assumptions or biases about youth and youth leadership. We all make assumptions. Shaped by our communities, experiences, media, and the information we either have or do not have access to. It is important in any kind of relationship to acknowledge, interrogate and challenge our assumptions, and when we leave our assumptions unchecked they become stereotypes that drive implicit biases and that is DANGEROUS. For example the assumption that young people do not have the knowledge or capacity to be effective and competent creates power dynamics that reduce the role of youth and displaces young people from conversation about issues that directly impact them. So name and check your assumptions, create space for those assumptions to be challenged in partnership with young people, and do this often.
  • Avoid and challenge traditional youth and adult roles. Young people are often referred to and or placed in roles that denote less power relative to adults. Teacher/Student, Parent/Child, even Adult/Youth. When we shift from traditional adult power roles and share power with young people, we move from adults as mentors/facilitators and create safer, more meaningful relationships that function as a partnership. Adults as partners are better listeners, supporters, and have greater accountability. In partnership, they are also better aligned with the youth they work with and can facilitate better opportunities for youth to contribute meaningfully.
  • Share power and accountability. This is where we make the distinction between youth only and youth/adult. A common stumbling block in youth leadership and adult allyship is the assumption that youth should do everything, and that youth leadership is threatened by the presence of adults. This is not what we are saying. We believe that youth leadership needs to be intergenerational, and that for youth to fully actualize their power, adults need to respect and support them. Adults cannot do that if they are on the sidelines, and not actively engaged in adult allyship. In fact when youth are charged with being the sole leads on various efforts it removes adults from being accountable to the youth in leadership, and the success or failure of those projects or efforts. Adult allyship is not just about sharing power, its about sharing accountability by being present and accountable when things are great, and when we have epic fails. All of this creates transformative learning opportunities for youth and adults that enhance the capacity of both to be in partnership.
  • Tokenism Sucks. In order to talk about tokenism we have to talk about participation. If young people are not involved in decision making, or consulted intentionally in projects or efforts, that is a form of tokenism. If youth voices are represented by those other than youth and their only participation is a validation of adult narratives around youth experience, then you are TOKENIZING them and you need to stop. No seriously, STOP NOW. This is where checking your assumptions, avoiding traditional youth/adult roles, and sharing power and accountability, culminate. No one wants to be the token woman, black person, or youth. When we create paradigms that only value the voice, experience and presence of youth for show without actively seeking and creating safe space for meaningful engagement we are doing the complete opposite of advancing youth and frankly, adult leadership too. Tokenizing does not support the leadership of others, and it does not make you a better leader or ally. So again, STOP!
  • Intergenerational Mutuality and Togetherness. Let’s keep it 100–we are better when we are together and mutuality is a two way street. Adults and youth who work together as a team and create safe, meaningful partnerships have better outcomes across the board. Valuing the wisdom, ideas, and contributions of youth and adults equitably, allows us to collaborate in ways that are generative and that we can see through our decisions and actions together. Intergenerational mutuality and togetherness creates positive nurturing relationships where we can learn from each other and creatively think tank on solutions to our issues, because they are all OUR issues.

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What do you do when your favorite band is only playing once in the United States this year? You go to the show!

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WhyHunger staff gave out “Imagine There’s No Hunger” bracelets at the event.

That’s what Dispatch fans do. This past weekend, Dispatch performed their only North American shows of 2015 at Madison Square Garden in NYC. Fans of the band traveled from near and far to show their love. In doing so, fans not only supported the band, but also the band’s mission to use their music to shine a light on the issue of hunger in the U.S.

The concerts were just one piece of the band’s DISPATCH: HUNGER campaign. Throughout the weekend, Dispatch held events to further educate the fans about hunger in the United States and take direct action in support of programs and policies that work to fight hunger in NYC. Additionally, the band has released a new song titled “Bound By Love,” to support DISPATCH: HUNGER. Through the month of July proceeds from the sales of the song will support the campaign partners, including WhyHunger. You can purchase the song here.

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The DISPATCH: HUNGER Campaign partners.

WhyHunger was honored to have been selected as one of the partner organizations for this campaign and played a key role in providing content and shaping the campaign messaging to help educate fans. Our staff could be seen both nights at MSG-talking to Dispatch fans about our work, sharing information about hunger and poverty through our trivia game, and putting #WhyDammit tattoos on eager participants to show their support. Plus, by engaging with WhyHunger and the other partners on site, concert attendees had the opportunity to win one of the coveted DISPATCH: HUNGER volunteer shirts.

We would like to extend our thanks to Dispatch and their team, who worked tirelessly to make this all possible. WhyHunger and Dispatch both firmly believe in the power of music to make positive change in this world. We had a great time with the Dispatch fans and encourage everyone to stay engaged with our work and the issue.

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Spanish democratic revolution

Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca (PAH). Photo credit: Robert Pluma

In the Spanish municipal elections in May this year, a tide of social justice movements swept populist groups into local government. Cities across the country, including Barcelona and Madrid, saw unprecedented participation of everyday people in politics. On the eve of the elections, a delegation of 20 New York City-based activists and organizers traveled to Spain, to learn firsthand how Spanish communities were using social movements to take command of their living conditions, and to pave the way for an electoral insurgency and a Spanish democratic revolution.

Last Tuesday, July 7, 2015, the delegation gathered at CUNY’s Murphy Institute to report back on their experiences to an audience of about a hundred people. Employing some of the techniques they had picked up on their travels, the organizers split the talking points evenly between themselves, encouraged questions and group discussions and, of course, provided food. The mood was convivial and the discussion was frank.

Organizer Elia Gran outlined the economic situation in Spain, where education has been privatized, social security has been limited, 6 million people are unemployed and 3 million people are officially in poverty. Gran explained that Spanish activists are vigilant in refusing to accept the term ‘economic crisis’ – they call the 2008 crash a ‘scam,’ and point to current housing conditions as an example. Approximately 200 people are evicted everyday in Spain, in many cases because of foreclosure. Spain has a mortgage law unique to Europe: if your house is seized by the bank, your mortgage is not forfeit. Forcibly removed from their homes, many Spaniards are additionally crippled by continuing mortgage debt. The irony here, Gran reminded the audience, is that leading up to 2008 the Spanish government built a record number of new houses and urged citizens to buy the houses as a ‘stable investment.’ When the market crashed the banks were bailed out, but the new homeowners were not.

Faced with homelessness, poverty and stringent austerity measures, Spanish communities have banded together to form social justice groups and new political platforms. Gran described the movement as, “Not a movement about the left or the right, but about asking for real democracy and accountability of governments.”

The New York delegation shared information about a number of the movements that have emerged:

  • Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca (in English, ‘Platform for People Affected by Mortgages’). The PAH is a grassroots organization which began in Barcelona and has spread throughout Spain. The PAH uses direct action and collective civil disobedience to campaign for housing rights, with protests staged in banks, in council offices and at eviction sites. The PAH also provides supportive community knowledge base, and will rehome recently evicted families in unoccupied buildings, until the government services provide a housing solution. More information about the PAH can be found in the free documentary, ‘Seven Days at PAH Barcelona.’
  • The 15M Movement, also known as ‘Indignados’ (in English, ‘outraged’). The 15M Movement is a series of nationwide demonstrations against Spanish government austerity measures. NYC organizer Pablo Benson explained that the 15M message of “democracy as it is right now is broken,” presented a “double crisis” – a harmful neoliberal government, and a lack of representational democracy. He described 15M as “a current that led to the electoral insurgency.”
  • Barcelona en Comú and Ahora Madrid. The two parties are citizen-run platforms that were elected into Mayoral office in their respective cities in the May elections, and both emphasize public participation in policy agendas, and social justice.
  • Podemos. Podemos is a left-wing, crowd-developed political platform with a decentralized structure. It won 5 seats in 2014 European parliamentary elections and has the largest number of party members after the current government majority, the People’s Party.
  • Other community run spaces for sharing. The delegation observed that local hubs and small businesses, and community-run websites play a crucial role in helping people bring their lives and their activism together, and provide safe places for sharing information and organizing. One example is xnet, an online platform where people can share information about political corruption with journalists and legal counsel.

The NYC to Spain delegation outlined a number of crucial ‘takeaways’ they had observed on their trip, which have contributed to what Benson described as “the condition of possibility” for social justice in the Spanish electoral race. Their observations included:

  • Feminism – NYC organizer Rachel McCullough described the PAH as “really a women’s movement,” and many women, such as Ada Colau of Barcelona en Comú, and Manuela Carmena of Ahora Madrid, have become the visible faces of their collectives.
  • Horizontal participation – Movements advocate shared leadership, and equal opportunity for voices to be heard. Many organizers are unpaid, but see themselves as ‘participantes’ – affected and engaged, rather than ‘volunteers.’
  • Non-partisan language – NYC activists noticed that many platforms in the movement avoid polarizing ‘leftist language,’ and present themselves as for causes, rather than taking sides with existing political alignments.
  • Transparency – NYC organizer Tamara Shapiro described the goal of an “open democracy” in which public policy is decentralized and financing are transparent. Podemos, for instance, uses a sub-reddit to raise issues to referendum, in an attempt to increase public participation in policy making, while party members who are in government are required to make their daily agenda available to the public.
  • Government as only an instrument – The delegation described how these new political platforms emphasize that election in not the ‘end-game,’ and McCullough described how, in her election acceptance speech, Barcelona’s new mayor Ada Colau asked that the PAH continue to hold her accountable.

Jessica Powers, WhyHunger’s Program Director of Nourish Network for the Right to Food, was one of the delegation members who spoke about the importance of social centers in Spain as hubs for the movement. Powers explained that the delegation plans to continue to put their learning into practice. “The idea is to take some of the things we’ve learned, and cultivate things here in three areas: in the movement-building area, including Mayday Space [a community and movement space being set up in Brooklyn, which some of the delegates are involved in]; there’s a group that’s thinking about insurgent electoral politics and how to get candidates locally who come from movements and much more to come.”

Powers thought that the Spanish social justice movement was important for Americans to understand, as an example of a first world country grappling with austerity measures.

The delegation has some money left over from their fundraising, but rather than reimbursing themselves for travel expenses, they have opted to reinvest the money to fund another delegation to travel to Spain for the parliamentary elections in November to keep learning. More information on their trip is available at NYC to Spain.

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Harry and Jen Chapin

As we celebrate the life and legacy of our co-founder Harry Chapin, WhyHunger is teaming up with his daughter Jen Chapin to keep Harry’s dream of a world free from hunger alive through a push to support WhyHunger’s “Harry’s Giving Circle” monthly donor campaign. Jen shared with us the importance of Harry’s Giving Circle donations, memories of her father’s passion for food justice, and her hopes for the campaign. This July, we ask that you help us meet our goal of signing up 40 new members of Harry’s Giving Circle in honor of WhyHunger’s 40th anniversary.

WhyHunger interviewed Jen Chapin on July 16th, 2015 – the 34th anniversary of Harry Chapin’s passing.

WhyHunger: You started Harry’s Giving Circle in 2014. How do you feel about the campaign a year in?

Jen: Harry’s Giving Circle is near and dear to my heart—it’s my baby. I feel great about the campaign thus far. Eventually, I would like for The Giving Circle to be the “go to” way for people to connect with Harry’s legacy and WhyHunger. I’m really looking forward to seeing it grow.

WhyHunger: Why are Giving Circle donors so important to WhyHunger?

Jen: As a board member, I’ve participated in countless conversations about WhyHunger’s budgeting and fundraising. From what I’ve gathered over the many years I have served on the board, it is a huge weight off of the shoulders of the staff to have steady funding. Harry’s Giving Circle, by calling for a monthly pledge from donors, ensures that we have a recurring income. WhyHunger has an amazing track record of creating innovative ways to raise funds and engage new supporters, and I feel that Harry’s Giving Circle does just that. The consistent funding allows us to be more timely and effective in our planning and programming.

WhyHunger: This is an important time of the year for WhyHunger, and a special time for Harry’s family and friends to remember him. How will you be remembering your dad this month?

Jen: The blessing of my dad’s life and his legacy is that he really is commemorated all year round. I’m usually always doing something to honor him, whether it’s with WhyHunger or through my music. Honestly, I’m caught off guard sometimes when people reach out to me on his birthday or the anniversary of his passing, because I just feel so connected to him every day of the year. Nutrition, racial justice, and education are some of the things that are really important to me, and they are all connected to food justice, which in turn connects me to my dad. This month and Harry’s Giving Circle just offer me another positive way to memorialize him.

WhyHunger: What do you think your dad would have to say about Harry’s Giving Circle?

Jen: Well, first we would have to explain the internet to him! My dad would be enthusiastic about a campaign like this. He was such a supportive parent; he was always cheering me on no matter what I was doing. Though, as far as doing the work of food justice, he was never one to be self-congratulatory. Once we launched a campaign such as this he would say something like “OK, good, what’s next?”

WhyHunger: What effects do you hope for Harry’s Giving Circle to have, long-term?

Jen: Ultimately I would like Harry’s Giving Circle to be a significant source of revenue for WhyHunger to count on. My hope is that this campaign will remain strong and solid, so that the funds can support programming and enable WhyHunger to do even more great work in the future.

Join Harry’s Giving Circle here.

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