Youth hold an important role in the movement to end violence. Our eagerness to learn and also put our education into action gives us the power to create the future we envision: a future that will one day be rid of violence. However, as youth, we also face various challenges, one of them being a sense of loss or longing within the journey of our adolescence. This rings especially true for migrant youth who’ve left their motherland in search of opportunity that didn’t seem possible back home. Thus, in the Spring of 2015, Filipino Youth Reunite to Elevate, FYRE was launched in collaboration with the Filipino Community of Seattle and API Chaya.
FYRE is a program for young people interested in gaining leadership skills, building community, and learning about issues that impact Filipino youth. We meet every Friday, year-round, on a quarterly basis. Our weekly sessions typically include activities and discussions around gender-based violence, consensual relationships, as well as Filipino identity and culture—all of which are related to and greatly influence who we are today, who we are becoming, and who we want to be in the future. FYRE develops youth leaders and peer educators in nourishing relationships and in challenging rape culture. As young leaders, we strive to not only learn about the injustices we face but also how to make positive change happen within our homes, schools, and communities.
In October 2015, the Filipino community suffered the loss of three lives due to sexual violence. The silence around child sexual abuse and incest has been a difficult challenge for so many communities. Moreover, this silence has consequently led to more cases of violence and abuse within our communities. This reality sparked many dialogues in FYRE about what safety and healing meant for us and for our surrounding community. As youth today, we recognize that violence exists around us—anyone is capable of being harmed and anyone is capable of doing harm. Nevertheless we also acknowledge that we have the power to change this reality and build towards a brighter future through collective education, healing, and action within the larger movement to address the root causes of violence.
Understanding the need to put dialogue into action, FYRE launched our first community zine in November 2016: Siklab ng Puso which loosely translates to “spark within the heart” or “inner spark.” Throughout this zine, we explored the themes of safety and healing and what they meant for us. Using original poems, illustrations, as well as handmade collages, we spoke to both our personal and collective understanding of the importance of healing and safety within the violent times in which we’re living. From longing, loss, and grief, we found community, purpose, and healing. Cultural work and art have a transformative power for our communities, as they show both the vulnerability of the person offering their cultural work and also remind the viewer that we are not alone in our struggles.
As youth, it’s sometimes difficult to feel like we have a voice. Nonetheless, through FYRE and the creation of our zine, we’ve learned that our voice is not only important but it is also very powerful. With this zine, we hope to ignite the inner spark within our community to also believe in their voice, take part in our collective healing, as well as participate in creating safer spaces that address the root causes of violence that are deeply embedded in the systems around us.
In the spirit of community healing, FYRE has also been participating in the process of starting a community garden named Lupang Ipamana (or Land of Your Legacy). This March 2017, we will start planting our first seeds and encourage our surrounding community to join us in this cultivation of new life. As young migrants and children of Filipino immigrants, we honor our ancestral tradition of farming and are hopeful that this garden will also bring our intergenerational community together.
There is a need for people of diaspora both young and old to connect with one another, since there are many lessons that can be shared intergenerationally. Diaspora has kept us separated from one another for so long, as youth we are realizing the need for our communities to reunite. While creating this new garden we also remember the violent history in which this land was stolen from Duwamish, Suquamish, Coast Salish peoples, the ancestral and original caretakers of this area. As Filipino youth, we see the shared struggle here and in our homelands for land and water, through long histories and modern-day migration, and the displacement of the indigenous peoples as well as of our people. Thus, in our healing we acknowledge the importance to commemorate this violent history so that we remain diligent when cultivating new crops to also honor the current struggles facing indigenous people and their fight against the violent displacement from their native lands.
Through personal experiences and shared struggles, we are participating in the movement to end violence and working towards creating the future we envision not only for ourselves but for everyone. FYRE invites youth, students, and our surrounding community to join us in our shared healing as we strive to create safer spaces and work to address the root causes of violence around us.
We the youth are the future. We have the power to change our relationships, our families, our communities. We are leaders now, and our power is only growing. We invite you to join us on the journey of finding and affirming our values, growing our skills in leadership, love, resistance, and building the loving and equitable relationships we want and deserve. Another world is possible, and we the youth are the ones who can truly make it happen. For more information about FYRE, please contact [email protected] or visit www.facebook.com/YouthOnFYRE.