BY MARY NGUYEN, MARISSA ESTEBAN, & MONIQUE CAINTIC

 

We envisioned this training manual to be a tool for our community. This project was a great opportunity to have a voice and to create discussion focused on the work that we will be carrying on to the next generation of activists. As we continue the work of our mentors, we often feel like our voices aren’t heard either because we don’t know how we fit into the movement or because we are living in the shadow of our elders.

It is very empowering for us, as the next generation of activists, to have opportunities to be involved in projects like this training manual. We were able to ask questions relevant to our future work and involvement in the community. While these dialogues gave us a stronger connection to our history, it also gave us more access to the real struggles of veteran activists. So often we glorify their accomplishments but aren’t told about the true struggles they had to overcome. These are the stories we need. These are the stories that will educate us beyond what we can learn in school or online and will help us define the true meaning of being an activist.

But let’s be real. The true meaning of an activist cannot be captured in a step-by-step training manual. The work of an activist is continuously evolving as the movement changes. One of the things that we realized, that is always true and withstands time and place, is the necessity for having real live, in-person, face-to-face connections with each other. We need to physically be a part of our community, not just behind the computer with e-mails or social networking status updates. Being with one another truly builds community and makes us feel a sense of urgency to continue the work. This is our struggle. We may be quicker at online communications, but oftentimes, we lack the deep connections that common spaces granted our mentors.

This is a document, but community involvement is much more significant. It’s bigger than any training manual. We need to continue the work by having more dialogues and more collaboration. No, this may not be the answer our peers have been looking for, but we hope you read this and feel that urgency to be curious, to ask questions and to seek mentorship with veteran activists. And in turn, we hope that veteran activists will welcome the challenge to dig deep and share the stories that very few have heard.

We would like to say to our mentors that you have taught us the importance of working together to build a real movement. We learned that we need to build our resources together with the understanding that while we may have separate social justice interests, we are still working toward a common goal. We also have some advice for you: educate us on our history and your lessons learned and then, take a step back. Don’t be afraid to let us take on leadership roles. We are going to make mistakes, so let us while also being there to guide us through them. Trust that we will carry on your legacy and find our own struggle. We will make this movement relevant to us and carry it on to the next generation.

To our peers, we cannot let our community spaces be lost so let’s carry on the fight to preserve the International District. Many in our generation think this fight has been won, but it hasn’t. We need to re-evaluate the way we think about the ID — it isn’t a historical place that will be here forever. We need to fight for it to be here. It might not be our choice to have it remain the same, to preserve our history in the same way as our parents’ generation but it is our decision. We need to welcome this challenge with open arms because the future of the International District shouldn’t be decided by the next person that wants to bring in a McDonald’s or build a condominium and charge more than our community is able to pay. Let’s continue the discussions we started for this training manual and learn how to make our voices be heard. Together.