Tag Archives: Youth of Color

How Kaley Duong and Alexis Mburu Became Award-Winning Youth Activists

by Ari Robin McKenna

Kaley Duong and Alexis Mburu knew there was something wrong with school, only it took them a while to find the right words, to know how to phrase them, and to channel their innate leadership ability. In middle school, both joined racial equity clubs that began to illuminate aspects of the issues they were seeing or facing. In high school, both began speaking out more frequently, organizing, and building community around taking action to address the ills of a system they were still in. During the 2021–2022 school year — when Duong was a senior and Mburu a junior — both were unstoppable, working tirelessly for racial equity in schools while organizing, participating in, and speaking at events that impacted thousands.

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FEEST Empowers Students to Action Across Seattle

by Ronnie Estoque

Access to affordable, healthy, culturally relevant foods in schools has always been a focus point for FEEST, an organization led by Youth of Color in South Seattle and south King County. Recently, FEEST has reassessed the curriculum they’ve taught their students in Seattle Public Schools (SPS) and Highline Public Schools (HPS) to help improve their organizing skills. Both SPS and HPS have guaranteed that their school food will be free to all students for the remainder of the 2021–2022 academic term.

“We want school lunch to be free for everyone K–12, indefinitely,” said Cece Flanagan, a community organizing and training manager at FEEST. “We are also ensuring that youths’ basic needs are being met by offering free groceries and meal deliveries, loaning technology to connect to school/virtual meetings, ensuring youth [organizers] are connected to mental health supports, and paying them a competitive wage.”

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The Importance of Hiring and Retaining BIPOC Teachers

by Alexis Mburu and Layla Ismail

As we’ve entered a new school year — one with unprecedented experiences, dynamics, and reckonings — something remains the same. Students of marginalized identities are constantly being disenfranchised in our current education system. This is well demonstrated when we look at the ways Black and Indigenous students are pushed out of classrooms. Not seeing themselves represented — whether it be figuratively in the content and curriculum of the classroom or literally in the staff and teaching force of the school — is one of those ways.

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The Elleby Foundation Brings Youth Basketball Camp to the Community

by Ronnie Estoque

Basketball runs deep in the local Elleby household. In 2011, Garfield High School honored Bill Elleby as a legend for his contributions as a player during the late 1980s. He went on to play for the University of California, and the team made two National Invitation Tournament appearances and one NCAA appearance during his four years as a Golden Bear. Raised to love the game of basketball by his late uncle, Carl Ervin, Bill was a Cleveland High School and Seattle University star and was eventually drafted by the Seattle Sonics in the 1980 NBA Draft. Four decades later, the next generation of basketball talent in the family, C.J. Elleby, is officially in the NBA as the Portland Trail Blazers guard.

“The moment he [C.J.] got drafted, it was kind of surreal, I had tears fill into my eyes because I know how hard he’s worked,” C.J.’s father, Bill Elleby, reminisced. “And I know how hard it is to get to that dream — for players to get drafted.”

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Don’t Exploit Youth in Politics, #CompensateYouth on Campaigns

by Andrew Hong and Nura Ahmed

In July 2020, during Kirsten Harris-Talley’s 2020 State House Campaign in the 37th Legislative District, we found an opportunity to create space for youth to engage in campaign work that was safe, comfortable, empowering, and educational. 

Andrew proposed, founded, and led the campaign youth team “Youth for KHT” that served as an anchor for youth campaign organizing on Harris-Talley’s campaign and for progressive youth in the greater Seattle region. Within days the youth team attracted dozens of young people, creating a safe space for youth on the campaign where they helped lead the way on policy development, coalition-building, small business outreach, field organizing, social media, campaign art, and several other youth-led projects. We even paid 10 youth members a $15/hr wage for their organizing.

Nura worked to build an East African youth coalition to get the East African community to come out to vote. Everyone in the coalition were youth between the ages of 15 and 18 years old. They spearheaded the efforts in raising awareness of how the East African community has been massively disenfranchised and not centered, especially in policy decisions. 

Before this campaign, however, both of us had experiences as youth in political campaigns that felt negative and exploitative. 

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Teen Summer Musical Returns With a Show About an Off-Brand Band and Racial Equity

by Susan Fried

The Teen Summer Musical is an institution in Seattle. For many years Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center and Teen Summer Musical director Isiah Anderson worked with dozens of young people over eight to 10 weeks every summer to create a world class, large-scale musical production. In 2019, performances of Uncle Willy’s Chocolate Factory played to full houses at Benaroya Hall and included 60 young people performing amazing choreography and singing incredible original music. In 2020, there was no Teen Musical. Like most annual events it was canceled due to COVID-19.  

Isiah Anderson, the director of the Teen Summer Musical “Story of an Off-Brand Band,“ rehearses at the Acts on Stage Theatre on Wednesday, July 21, 2021. (Photo: Susan Fried)

The Teen Summer Musical has returned for 2021, though in an abbreviated form. This year’s production is made possible by Acts On Stage, The Voices Project, the Associated Recreation Council, and Seattle Parks and Recreation. Fifteen young people between 12 and 18 years old will be dancing and singing in an original musical Story of an Off-Brand Band written by Michelle Lang-Raymond and adapted and directed by Isiah Anderson, with original music by Lang-Raymond and musical director Cedric Thomas. About half of the cast and many of the staff have either performed in or were a part of the crew in past Teen Musical productions. By the first performance of this year’s musical, the cast and crew will have put in 5 weeks of hard work, Monday through Friday, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, at the Acts on Stage Theatre space in White Center, co-founded by Michelle Lang-Raymond and Isiah Anderson.  

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Drew Campbell Talks Shine Kinesthetic: Learning by Doing, Exploring, Discovering

by Ari Robin McKenna

When Drew Campbell was in middle school in the Renton Highlands, he’d often watch recess alone from inside the classroom while all his peers played outside. After they lined up and came back into the building, he was allowed out into the schoolyard for his turn, wondering, “Would I ever be able to interact with the regular kids?” In the large, mostly empty classroom where he spent the rest of the day with two other students — each with their own Individual Education Plan (IEP) — posters mostly covered the windows to shield the three of them from being made fun of. When learning, they were separated by cubicle walls — not unlike those recently used to deter COVID-19 transmission — only they weren’t transparent. The isolation that Campbell felt, and the bullying he faced daily from peers after being excluded from their midst by adults after an ADHD diagnosis, is something he will never forget.

Yet born from this traumatic three years of his life was a desire to hone in on what students with a lot of energy — especially Black boys — need to be able to learn with enthusiasm and purpose. Though the public education system may have tried to fail Campbell, he learned from his experience a critique containing answers to questions now being asked publicly: How can we end the school-to-prison pipeline? How can we stop failing to engage Black boys? How can we make public education more inclusive?

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OPINION: ‘Best Starts for Kids’ Provides Vital Educational Support

by Jessica Werner and Erin Okuno

We are writing with enthusiastic support for the renewal of the Best Starts for Kids (BSK) levy and encouraging you to vote to approve the levy this August. As longtime advocates for children, youth, and families, we are so thankful to see the growing momentum and commitment to be a community that truly values young people and works to ensure that every child is happy, healthy, safe, and thriving!

Babies who were born the year BSK originally passed are just now entering school. The services they received as babies — like home visits, Play-and-Learn groups, information and support for parents and caregivers, and more — helped to prepare them and their families to enter school ready to learn and thrive.

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Adulting 101: Overcoming Food Insecurity in Rainier Beach

by Makayla Miles

(This article is co-published in agreement with Rainier Beach Action Coalition’s SE Seattle Freedomnet.)

This is the second in a series of articles drawing from the experiences of the many young adults employed by the Rainier Beach Action Coalition (RBAC) to improve their community. These articles tackle practical issues young adults in our community should have learned about in school, but often leave school without knowing.

Every Saturday, at least a half-hour before the Rainier Beach Action Coalition Farm Stand officially opens, the line of people waiting to get their hands on fresh, organically grown produce stretches from in front of the Community Center all the way toward the entrance of South Shore K–8.

Food insecurity is defined as “the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.” 

It’s widely known that Rainier Beach only has one grocery store — but while Safeway is a reliable option for some people, it can be too expensive for people living in low-income households. As a result, people sometimes have to travel outside of the area to find affordable food.

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Annual Solo String Festival Showcases Talented South King County Student Musicians

by Brittany Parker

Dr. Quinton Morris’ music students are not immune to the challenges of a global pandemic. The high school freshmen in his classes have never walked the halls of their new schools. Scholars are all adjusting to the constant contort of living life through screens.

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