Have you ever been the last one to be picked up on a road trip!? Doesn’t every second feel like a minute and every minute feels like an hour!? It sucks! Well, I was just in that predicament. My friend Efrain started our road trip to Portola, California from Fresno. He then picked up our friend Leslie from Merced, and there I was…waiting…FOREVER for the two of them in Sacramento. Filled with anxiety, excitement, and Red Bull, it felt like I waited on the two of them for three lifetimes. To be fair, it was less than 3 hours and no more than 15 minutes past their ETA. #Life’sTough
I lived my whole life in South Sacramento with very few reasons to travel outside my neighborhood for more than 5 miles or 15 minutes, so it continues to amaze me to see that just an hour North of Sacramento you can find yourself in a forest, on a highway, surrounded by trees. And, in that forest, how small things can become: some of life’s problems, the car, even Efrain (He was the tallest one in the car, trying to paint a picture).
After driving for just a little over two hours, we stepped out of the car and onto Grizzly Creek Ranch for the President’s Youth Council’s retreat. The mountains in the background replaced buildings, giant trees replaced storefronts, hiking paths replaced city streets, and sweet little cabins replaced apartment complexes. As more of my fellow President’s Youth Council (PYC) members arrived, I couldn’t help but feel the warm embrace of Mother Nature surround and comfort us, allowing us to talk, laugh, and simply be. It was definitely a privilege to be in Mother Nature, especially with the company I was in.
We were set for a weekend of strengthening relationships, exploring alignment between the work we are doing within our communities, the work The California Endowment (TCE) is advancing, and preparing ourselves to push TCE to become even more responsive.
As youth organizers, the work we do, in relationship to the organizations and social movements that we are a part of, is no less important than that of our adult allies. In fact, if we are ever able to create an intergenerational movement of social justice warriors, the work that we are doing is an essential part of a social justice pipeline where, from a very young age, people are developed to decolonize, organize, teach and learn from others.
And, this is why this time and space was so important. In the forest, we unearthed native indigenous healing practices to both explore alternative healing methods and begin/continue our lifelong journey to heal from ancestral trauma. We drew similarities and differences between our work, closely examining strategies and tactics, all the while sharing resources to help move the needle on local and statewide campaigns that touch on: #CounselorsNotCops, #Health4All, #Vote@16 and more. We dove deep into TCE’s Big Bets and our PYC memo, learning how best to inform the practices of philanthropy from the vantage point of community.
But, I’d be misleading you if I led you to think it was a weekend full of paperwork under trees. We kayaked, hit the flying squirrel, went rock climbing, and of course made SMORES! We liberated the inner child that lives within all of us. And, it was unimaginable to think that all this could happen just a car ride away from South Sac.
As a kid, I rarely left South Sac, but what’s even more inconceivable is that most of my neighborhood friends would tell you the same. It’s crazy to think how much nature lives just on the outskirts of my city. But, what’s even crazier is to think that the same could be said by folks in so many other cities like: Stockton, Modesto, Merced, Fresno, Los Angeles, and San Diego, California.
If we are going to create a youth leadership pipeline that helps sustain a social justice warrior ecosystem, there is no doubt in my mind that young people need to, more often, hold space at conferences, convenings, and decision-making tables where knowledge is shared, challenged, and directed into new initiatives. But, we also need to be supported with finding our ways back into the warm embrace of Mother Nature to tap back into some of those ancestral healing properties that have been denied too far too many of us. The youth are ready…