Posted by: MC | April 7, 2013

Succession – We’re in Great Hands

dreamers TE Jumping small

This week’s blog is a montage.  My qualification to put these images together here with my ideas about what I’ve seen and experienced of the Student Alliance Project arises only from the generosity with which the young adults of this thriving community organization have informed and befriended me as an ally.

Last night I attended a celebration.  There were hundreds of people in a room that barely held them, sitting at circular tables, standing in every other spare space as the young adults of the Student Alliance Project (SAP) offered a review of some of their successes including the formation of their non-profit, Momentum Alliance in which are housed both SAP and the Leveraging Momentum initiatives. The youth and their supporters were celebrating particularly the recent passage in the Oregon Legislature of a bill guaranteeing in-state college and university tuition to undocumented youth (see the celebratory photo above and the EX:C blog, Liberating Leadership, February 10, 2013).

All of this from the non-profit organization conceived and managed by executive boards composed 85% of youth between 17 and 25, 75% of whom are people of color.  This youth-led council is actively developing alliances, reducing isolation and prejudice, designing innovative projects and creating a dynamic regional network of young leaders working for social justice.

Here is one of the leaders of SAP reading the organization’s mission to last night’s gathering.

We are young people from diverse communities who are strengthening our self-confidence and trust, achieving our goals and becoming advocates and allies for social justice.LM reading SAP mission/vision  4-6-2013  mmc

We are undocumented, immigrant, LGBTQ, indigenous, low-income and gang-affected youth, youth of color, youth transitioning from foster care, homelessness or incarceration, youth with disabilities, teen parents and allies.

We are youth who are actively developing alliances, reducing isolation and prejudice, designing joint projects and creating a dynamic regional network of young leaders.

Youth are the leaders and decision-makers at all levels of our organization, with coaching from experienced individuals and organizations.

Here’s another SAP leader – board member and peer coach.  He read a poem with the repeating line, “If you knew me.”  His lyrics laid bare the rote J being his natural Leader self  4-6-2013  mmcprejudgments that daily come his way.  With the company of his colleagues in SAP, he laid claim to his right and action toward developing himself as a civic leader nonetheless. There were half a dozen poems read last night by the SAP leadership.  Each word carried the claim, enthusiasm and generosity of these emerging and visionary leaders.

The spirit of individual leadership arising from a reliable community of mutual support was everywhere in evidence.  That neither is possible without the other was an understanding essential to the point of being reflexive among these young leaders.

On the heels of the poetry, this young woman shared the testimony she gave last month to the elected state leadership – testimony she made as an undocumented high school scholar longing for a chance at college, her words powerful among those that contributed to the recent passage of the in-state Sharing in-state tuition testimony -- 4-6-2013  mmctuition bill.  Her Somalian colleague – another SAP leader, had opened the evening saying, “we have so much here in this country and with each other.  Together we will use our good luck to support ourselves, one another and the world where we live.”

These days in my work I hear managers across business, governmental and academic institutions speaking about succession.  Who will carry the torch?  Where are the leaders of tomorrow?

Not to worry.  They’re right here.

They’re open to the wisdom and guidance of current leaders, publicly recognized and not – civic leaders, community leaders, church leaders, really any adults who have the wisdom and maturity to recognize the dignity and capability of the youth looking their direction.  What that means is that these talented and discerning young leaders want guidance but are not willing to tolerate agendas bent on indoctrination.  And they need not be.  Originally moved to organizing themselves for social action by the interests and concerns of the Dream Act, these young adults are building an impressive track record.  They are here to stay, and in that we are all most fortunate.

As a closing inspiration, here from one of last night’s brochures are the first words of a poem also read to the gathering by Josh, a 20 year old activist for the dignity of all youth, and particularly for youth like him who he describes as Aspergians.

look into my eyes
and see things
unforetold!
look into my soul
and see the strangeness
i call home!
for life
is not simply
being normal
what they call normal

look into my eyes
my unforetold autistic
aspergian
eyes!
see
what i see!
hear
what I hear!
know the loudness
and the pain
in my head
going insane!
know not to
pity me
but enjoy
the uniqueness
that is who i am.

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