AMP: Grassroots²

Washington DC

@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.