by Chamidae Ford
On the cusp of their one-year anniversary, the Emerald Youth Organizing Collective (EYOC) has become one of the foremost youth collectives in the area, having recently endorsed Nikkita Oliver for Seattle City Council.
EYOC began to take shape during Kirsten Harris-Talley’s campaign last summer. The founder, Andrew Hong, was working as a field organizer and went on to start the campaign’s youth team.
“After Kirsten won the election, we thought we had a good structure and continued interest so we rebranded to Emerald Youth Organizing Collective a few months later,” Hong said. “We continued doing work mostly in the state Legislature but we also did some community work too, and now we’re rapidly expanding the projects we do.”
The collective is focused more on giving back and strengthening their community rather than fighting for one specific issue.
“Our long-term goal is to build an infrastructure of leftist, progressive youth power in the region and South Seattle,” Hong said. “To support youth through mutual aid and also to build political power in our electoral systems, [while] also listening to our community.”
One of the community-focused projects EYOC will be focusing on in the short term is a mutual aid event on Friday, June 25 from 2 to 6 p.m.
“We spent the past couple of weeks going into Rainier Beach and talking to primarily unhoused folks living in the area but also just like community members,” Linda Phan, a member of EYOC said. “We’re basically just trying to get a sense of what items they might need that we can fund.”
EYOC has partnered with Youth Voices for Justice and Nikkita Oliver’s campaign to provide support to members of the Rainier Beach community.
“We have received monetary support from Nikita Oliver’s campaign because mutual aid is a huge component in their campaign, which they stress,” Phan said. “They also stress amplifying the voices of youth and youth organizing so that’s why they reached out to us to establish that partnership and why they’re supporting us with our monetary needs for the event.”
EYOC makes it a priority to ensure they get information directly from community members about how they can help, believing that a more personalized approach to mutual aid can have a bigger impact.
“We see a lack of accountability in our present municipalities in terms of how they’re answering the needs of various marginalized communities,” Phan said. “As we do our canvassing work, we noticed that a lot of the constituents that we’ve been speaking with say ‘Oh, we’ve never had people that come talk to us directly. Usually, the City just assumes what we need or they’ll have various options for us to vote on in terms of where to get funding for an area in our community.’ But voting is so inaccessible for so many people, especially the people we’ve been talking to.”
The mutual aid event will feature free personal items available to any community members who need them. The event will also feature an exchange for those with the means to donate items for others. EYOC is asking people to bring hygiene products, masks, shoes, and any personal items they would like to donate. There will be food from BIPOC- and immigrant-owned restaurants as well as performances by local musicians.
Despite only beginning a year ago, the collective is large, with over 50 active members — but even so, they continue to accept new applicants. EYOC is made up of youth ages 22 and younger and the group recently opted to remove hierarchy from their collective.
“As an organization, we’ve moved towards a less hierarchical structure and a more membership-driven structure,” Hong said. “We take up projects if there’s interest, just making sure we’re fighting for our collective’s broader goals of youth empowerment and community power.”
EYOC is working to create space for youth with lived experience who want to make a difference in their community — and they urge anyone passionate about community power to join.
“Young people who are looking to plug into any sort of community-based political advocacy work [should apply],” said Riya Sharma, a member of EYOC. “I think we really value lived experience too, which is something we’re looking to prioritize more and more within the collective.”
If you’re interested in joining EYOC you can find the application by following the link on their Instagram page.
Editors’ Note: A previous version of this article had a headline that suggested Emerald Youth Organizing Collective (EYOC) solely hosted the mutual aid event on June 25, 2021 when in fact the event was a collaboration between Youth Voices for Justice and EYOC. This article was updated on 07/26/2021 with the headline “Youth Groups Host Mutual Aid Event for Rainier Beach” to better indicate the collaboration.
Chamidae Ford is a recent journalism graduate of the University of Washington. Born and raised in Western Washington, she has a passion for providing a voice to the communities around her. She has written for The Daily, GRAY Magazine, and Capitol Hill Seattle. Reach her on IG/Twitter: @chamidaeford.
📸 Featured Image: Youth activists at the Seattle Children’s March in the Central District in June 2020. The Emerald Youth Organizing Collective will host a mutual aid event in Rainier Beach on Friday, June 25 from 2 to 6 p.m. (Photo: Sharon Ho Chang)
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