Capturing Impact

Our Recap of A Gathering of Leaders 2014

Letters from the Field: Young Leaders Speak Truth to Power Young leaders spanning high school to early career highlighted the importance of investing in youth leadership and provided key lessons about movement-building.


Juan Gomez National Compadres Network
Clarence Ford Safe Return
Jhovani Becerra Padres Y Jovenes Unidos
Elizabeth Ul 1Love Movement
Mariama Bangura VOYCE
Taiyana Murray Gay-Straight Alliance Network

Main Points

  • Youth are the future and they are moving forward with decolonizing methods. Young people have taken what MLK has said and have become dreamers. They have a special perspective that needs to be a part of the conversation. It is not enough that they are on the minds of older people; they have to be a part of the movement.
  • It is important to make meaningful investments in youth, including quality education and rehabilitation when they are in the criminal justice system. Adults should also practice active listening instead of combative listening, and they should be mindful about how they speak about their relationships with others because young people remember and process everything they hear.

Clarence Ford

  • "The only way I thought I could be successful was with sport, but that did not work out. I turned to violence and selling drugs. Prison was the lowest years of my life. Imagine being shackled and moving without choice, and having to hide who I was. After my sentence, I didn’t know what I should do."
  • "I became involved with reentry programs, and I found that the formerly incarcerated in the city of Richmond [California] had high unemployment because of the lack of resources. I helped with the <strong>Ban the Box Ordinance</strong> campaign. For young people like us who want to change, we need the resources and the opportunity. We need to invest in people to have a better outcome. The older generation needs to be active listeners."

Jhovani Becerra

  • "I came [to the U.S.] undocumented from Mexico at the age of five. I was hurt when I was told I could not attend college because of my immigration status. I was an outcast; I pretended to be legal. I wore my mask when I heard the illegal label. We are deprived of our human rights. Thanks to DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] we are now able to take off our mask and advocate. We still have a long way to go. No student should have to put on a mask; they should be who they are."

Elizabeth Ul

  • "Our goal is to remove these divisive labels between good immigrants and bad immigrants because it lessens collective power. We also need to do this work to remove the school-to-prison-to-deportation pipeline. Cambodian Americans are silenced because of the model minority myth. The story of self and diving into the student’s struggles will help disrupt the model minority myth."

Mariama Bangura

  • "In Sierra Leone, my family had to hide from the rebels. We thought we were free when we came to the United States, but that was not the case. There was no love. After a conflict with a teacher, I was handcuffed, dehumanized, and scared. The teacher did not think about the problems I had outside of the classroom. All I wanted was love. Women of color also need support. I write my story because that is the positive way. We all have a gift; we just have to show it."

Taiyana Murray

  • "GSA [Gay-Straight Alliance] allowed me to be who I am. I didn’t have to hide. When I was a freshman, I couldn’t handle the stress because of school, religion, and self-identification. I could not be healthy mentally at school because they did not care. I did not want to go back. . ."
  • "We lose too many LGBT to suicide. The schools punish and do not support. A lot has changed. I am in school and look the way I want to look. A majority of LGBT are people of color. Trans women are being pushed out and are not accepted. . . "
  • "I see how people clutch on to their bag and do not want to sit by me because I look like a boy. My biggest fear is that black is not smart. If I act out I fear, that reflects on my race. It’s a barrier of intersectionality. Sometimes I deal with “twoness” of being Black and being queer, and it’s like I have to choose between the two when I’m working as an activist/organizer."

Standout Quotes

"We can combat recidivism in a productive way. California spends about $50,000 per year to incarcerate an adult. Just to rehabilitate someone is about $5,000." Clarence Ford
"They said you can’t go to college if you’re not a legal resident. That’s when it clicked for me that I couldn’t go to college, that I couldn’t travel, that at any time our family could be ripped apart because of our legal status." Jhovani Becerra
"We have an opportunity to make sure that ALL of our young people are prioritized and that we create a movement to bring justice to our blocks, to our cities, to our states, and to our nation. We need to be united as one. Right now we are the target. Young people: we are the solution." Mariama Bangura
"Let us use fresh ideas and new frameworks that set youth up for the 21st century, one in which all young people of color, men, women, queers and trans folks all rise.
Taiyana Murray
"I live to change this stigma and narrative that people have of young Black men. Changing from tears of hurt to tears of joy. You can be great if you want to be.
Clarence Ford