Since work is consuming so much of my life, I figured I should actually blog a bit about what it is I’m doing these days!
I am a Youth Program Specialist and Building Bridges Human Relations Camp Coordinator for the California Conference for Equality and Justice. http://www.cacej.org/
I share a corner office with two awesome colleagues and I have a view of the bay, the Queen Mary, the hills and so many things I love about Long Beach. I can see the lighthouse from here, walk to it even. It’s beautiful.
CCEJ is a “human relations organization dedicated to eliminating bias, bigotry, and racism in America. CCEJ breaks down the distance between people by promoting understanding and respect among all races, religions, and cultures through education, conflict resolution, and advocacy.” That’s our official mission. Building Bridges is a three day residential camp for high school students. They get a chance to go up into the mountains and do some amazing work on self discovery, leadership, learn about forms of oppression, communication styles, and make action plans to take back to their communities. My job is to coordinate the camp, which is staffed mainly by volunteers, and relies heavily on youth leaders who are also High School students and take a leading role in a lot of the program.
I also do Human Relations Education and Facilitator training which prepares volunteers, both youth and adult, to facilitate our programs and develop leadership skills, increase their understanding around issues of oppression, and learn about ways in which they can make a difference.
In addition to that I support a program called Talking in Class which takes place on campus at Middle Schools and High Schools and I do a bit of this and a bit of that with other community events.
I love my job. I totally love it. I get to work on everything from curriculum development to loading boxes of supplies onto a van. I get to work with youth volunteers, attend city council meetings supporting queer youth, meet Long Beach VIPs and learn break dance moves at camp. I love what I do.
This last weekend was camp. 165 peeps up on the mountain. Oh. Yeah! It was great! Except for the snow. Why exactly did I move to Southern California?? But, the good thing is I drove down the mountain on Sunday and returned to my sunny and beautiful home, snow free of course.
A few highlights of my weekend:
Youth coming out in groups and in private in response to my own disclosures.
Overhearing a conversation where one young man asked another “What is your racial identity” while they were waiting in line. It was textbook. Totally awesome. The young man was multiracial and great dialogue ensued. It was so great I wished I had a video camera with me.
Watching a shy young man come out of his shell after he and I got into a massive snowball fight which, of course, I won!
Seeing a father and son both facilitating in a group and talk about their experiences.
Playing card games after hours in the leadership cabin and totally getting the rules wrong.
Watching members of the Pacific Islander Dance club perform one of their dances in the community celebration and incorporate other campers as well. They were awesome!!!!!
Learning some new moves from my favorite krump dancer and a righteous b boy.
Getting to see overnight growth and realization in campers regarding their own racial identity.
Sitting in a room full of Latin@s and talking about our experiences. Hearing young people processing their experiences and figuring out what it meant for them to be latin@s and figuring it out for themselves. I felt so proud of mi raza I literally choked up a few times.
Getting to spend time with some people I really enjoy and admire.
Throwing snowballs at the buses as they left, and the driver who slowed down so for increased accuracy.
And, of course, getting back home. Parking the van in the driveway and crawling into the house after an exhausting weekend of work well done.
It takes a few days to fully recover but it’s worth every minute. That’s what I do for a living. I empower young leaders, I learn from them, I encourage them to grow, and I further my own growth. I get to talk about the ‘difficult’ subjects surrounding social identities and social inequality on a daily basis with people of different races, backgrounds, and ages. My work life is consistent with my personal politics, aligned with the ways in which I seek to make change in the world and the ways in which I walk in the world daily. I am blessed. I’m also really fucking tired! LOL