By EJ Pavia, Urban Peace Movement

“This is what Oakland looks like,” shouted Ajman Thrower, 21, after a lively and inspiring performance by DetermiNation Media Group, an African-American male achievement youth program hailing from Oakland. Attendees experienced this empowering scene: fifteen young black men took to the stage, raised their fists in the air, and challenged negative stereotypes of men of color. These youth leaders embodied the legacy and spirit of their Black Panther heroes, who once walked the same Oakland streets.

On Saturday, May 24, Impact HUB Oakland opened their doors to “The Movement,” a social justice summit for Bay Area youth ages 16-24. Oakland youth leaders transformed the space into a powerful display of the growing Oakland Youth Movement, making a strong call for both peace in the streets, as well as inner peace of mind, body, and spirit.

“The Movement” mobilized over 100 people from Oakland and throughout Northern California, reaching from Stockton to Salinas. Youth activists and adult allies participated in a full day of activities, including guest speakers, interactive workshops, media presentations, music and dance performances, cultural practices, healing sessions, free healthy food, and community networking. The summit was grounded in culture and ritual, with a focus on trauma-informed healing practices, community organizing, and youth-led social enterprises.

Event organizers intended for “The Movement” to strengthen relationships between youth leaders across different agencies, inspire youth to become active in their communities, and provide leadership development opportunities. “The Movement” also focused on youth-led social enterprises and how youth can use media and tech to not only address social and environmental issues, but to generate wealth for low-income communities.

Organizational allies Urban Peace Movement (UPM), United Roots (UR), the Urban Strategies Council’s Oakland-Alameda County Alliance for Boys and Men of Color, and DetermiNation Media Group (of the Boys & Men of Color Alliance) sponsored the event. Youth and staff from the soon-to-be opened Youth HUB — a co-working space for young entrepreneurs developed by UR and Impact HUB Oakland — also helped organize the summit.

“The Movement” event sponsors contacted over 40 local and statewide youth organizations to not only participate in the event’s festivities, but also to lend their expertise by facilitating workshops and offering guest presentations and performances.IFH DANCERS 13

Funding for the summit came from Akonadi Foundation and The California Endowment. DetermiNation is part of the Alliance for Boys & Men of Color, a project of The California Endowment and part of the “Health Happens Here For All Our Sons & Brothers” campaign. At the summit, DetermiNation youth leaders gave out posters and CD’s, screened short films, facilitated workshops, and performed live music (from their latest music project), all in an effort to encourage youth of color to promote peace and make healthy life choices for the greater good of their communities.

The summit’s design committee included youth leaders from UPM’s Peace Ambassador program, DetermiNation, Youth Uprising, Intertribal Friendship House, The Mentoring Center, and East Oakland Building Healthy Communities. The design committee believed that continuously promoting cultural awareness and respect amongst different racial groups in Oakland is necessary to sustaining real, long term solutions to urban violence. They also understand that if they want to see change in their communities, they can’t wait around for someone else to make it happen.

“I always hold in my heart that I can’t say what’s wrong with Oakland and name off negative things if I’m not trying to do anything to better Oakland,” said DaShawn Clinton, 23, a current DetermiNation member and UPM Peace Ambassador alumni who played an integral role in the design committee.

Clinton continued, “Therefore, I try to help Oakland. I try to uplift people, and I try to change how people perceive Oakland, because I know what we’re capable of.” As the the digital media artist behind the summit’s flyer, a talented rapper and performer, workshop co-facilitator and panelist, and a dedicated father to his daughter, this young man is a strong testament to what Oakland youth are achieving.

Artists from the Intertribal Friendship House facilitated an opening circle with traditional Native American singing and dancing. Guest speaker Jerry “Big G” Elster then shared his story about unifying rival gangs inside California state prisons, and was followed by a youth “All-Stars” panel that highlighted some of the young adults in the Bay Area that are currently leading important community campaigns.

During the afternoon, participants chose from a range of activities for their break-out workshops. Activities included: deconstructing stereotypes of youth of color in the media, addressing levels of sexism in hip hop culture, understanding what healthy masculinity looks like, hearing a panel discussion on the role a father plays in a child’s life, participating in cultural self-healing exercises, and using Theater of the Oppressed techniques to develop solutions to social issues.

ORGS 1“The Movement” closed with a segment that UPM’s Peace Ambassadors called “The Cultural Turn Up.” This portion of the program included live music performances by youth from DetermiNation, WolfHawkJaguar, Ernesto Olmos & Gera Marin, and local female dance sheroes Mix’d Ingrdnts. Guests also enjoyed cultural food tasting from local restaurants Pupuseria Las Palmas, Touch of Soul, and Las Adelitas Mexican Restaurant.

“’The Movement’ connected elders, families and youth across cultures to reclaim how we engage as community,” said Calvin Williams, the Boys and Men of Color Initiative Program Coordinator for the Urban Strategies Council. “From the cultural ceremonies to the workshops and youth performances, the event powerfully displayed how relationship building is community building.”

Ajman Thrower, DetermiNation youth leader and MC for their closing performance, reflected on the impact the event had on himself and his fellow DetermiNation members.

“The brothers in DetermiNation are growing into their consciousness of what’s going on around them and to them […] Everything isn’t negative,” said Thrower.

“We’re learning about the oppression that’s happening to us as not only men of color, but specifically men of color in urban communities who are experiencing firsthand the lack of nutrition, the lack of services, and just an overall ‘lack of…’. When we get on stage it’s not [just] about that,” Thrower continued. “We’re not coming from a place of victimization. We’re coming from a place of surplus and bountiful experiences and love, so when we were on that stage it was just us being in our true selves.”

Although “The Movement” was a single day youth leadership summit, Thrower believes that an event like this can have a lasting effect in the lives of the young men and women who attended.

“I hope [the youth] took away the jewels of knowledge that were being dropped […] I hope they can apply them to their lives and I definitely hope they keep doing their work. Whatever their craft is, keep doing it, keep pushing, you know? The world needs it.”

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