AMP: Grassroots²



@jingyork_, youth worker and organizer

What is your dream for our world post Covid? My dream for our world after Covid-19 is a work in progress. As a youth worker and educator who has been privileged enough to remain employed during the pandemic, my days have been spent navigating my youth and adult training and education programs to virtual platforms and supporting my youth in their transitions to online learning, and at-home confinement. I work with LGBTQ+ youth, and this transition to social distancing has been especially damaging for queer youth, many of whom already have precarious, or unsupportive housing.  

Unfortunately, I’m not ready to dream yet. Instead I’m going back to basics: building up the tools that we will all need if we’re going to sustain ourselves in the fight for a more equitable world post-Coronavirus. I’m re-learning the meaning of self care, accountability, and collective care, and I’m doubling down on building the discipline that I’ll need to put these skills into practice.

Organizers have a vital role to play as we look for a way forward in the wake of the pandemic. Covid-19 has only heightened the effects of the systemic inequality that’s baked into our country’s core. However, we can’t lead if we aren’t taking care of ourselves and our communities. I hope that as we continue our work throughout the pandemic, we dedicate some of our energy on building a greater aptitude for resiliency, honesty, accountability, and care than when we started.

What moment from your childhood put you on the path to becoming a change agent? 

As a young queer, transnational and transracial adoptee, I like to joke that I exist solely in “in-betweenity.” I’ve borrowed “in-betweenity” from the generation of Korean adoptees who came before me. It is a space of not-quite-being that, while at times unsettling, lonely, and uncharted, is also full of possibility and change. I’ve lived in this space all my life, and it’s been through my own attempts to understand, come to terms with, and build a home in my in-betweenity that I have found myself driven towards social justice.

Isn’t this how many of us arrive at this work? We begin because we feel our difference so acutely that we begin to search for answers, or a balm, or a tool, that we can use to create change. Coming out as gay at 15 allowed me to begin my search in earnest. I sought validation for my queerness in media, literature, and the lives of other queer youth. Coming out queer, especially when you’re young, means that you become an educator on your own existence. I was lucky thatI found helping people understand the realities of life as a queer youth both empowering and effective in making community change. Since then, my organizing has centered on community education, leading adults and youth through conversations around power, privilege, and identity, with the goal of achieving a more just and equitable world for queer and trans people of color.

Channing L. Martinez, Fight for the Soul of the Cities/Strategy Center

What do you do? I’m a Black Queer, Garifuna civil rights and climate justice organizer. I have spent my entire life in South Central LA. Like many Black people in LA, I grew up in the eastern parts of South Central around Central Avenue and as the 90’s and early 2000’s progressed we slowly moved more and more west until we reached Crenshaw Blvd. I come from a single parent household where my mom was the breadwinner of the house with three children. This year, I also ran for City Council.

Tell us about your work.The Strategy Center is training a new generation of revolutionary organizers. We operate the Strategy and Soul Movement Center, of which I’m the manager. Strategy And Soul is home to a state of the art film theater for and by the movement, an organizer’s bookstore and the Fight for the Soul of the Cities organizing office. Strategy and Soul is a center of repair, refocus, and revolutionary resistance, and for me provides one of the greatest hopes and examples of movement building at its best.

What is your Post Covid-19 Dream? My post COVID 19 dream is for us all to significantly increase our fight for and with the Black community against racism, patriarchy, homophobia, transphobia,  militarism and climate catastrophe.  One of the sad lessons we’re learning during this pandemic is that the Black community is worse off today than we’ve ever been. While there is a lot of hope that can be seen through the work of Black led organizations and Black community members stepping up to the plate to fill in where the government refuses, as we always have, the COVID 19 pandemic shows more blatantly the system’s out right disregard for Black people, Black hopes, and Black movement.

Today’s COVID 19 statistics on the Black community are beyond heart breaking. In Chicago Black people are only 30% of the population but 70% of Covid 19 deaths. In Los Angeles Black people are 9% of the population but 17% of Covid 19 deaths, and Illinois 15% of the population and 42% of Covid 19 deaths.

These numbers speak to the long American tradition of abuse of the Black community stemming from creating food deserts, and racist medical practices in the Black community. This is also reflected in racist policing and Black push-out tactics—militarizing public schools, privatizing public social services and the depletion of the enforcement mechanisms in the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Part 2: What is your Post Covid-19 Dream? At the Strategy Center, we are working to create the post COVID 19 reality we want to see today. It hasn’t been an easy process to move to physical distancing for everyone, especially for organizers working with the most vulnerable populations. And while we’ve had to move slow in order to prioritize supporting our leaders in meeting all of their basic needs first, we’re now excited to transition to working on our campaigns in new ways with an expanded focus.

We have to think very long-term as well as win victories in the present. As always, the people need physical facilities, political homes, as a battle against gentrification and genocide.