By Alejandra López Bravo
In early February, we received 40 applications for the LEVEL Youth Policy Program (YPP) from amazing young leaders between the ages of 19 to 29 years old. With the support of the LEVEL Advisory Committee, we applied an equity lens to the decision-making process by valuing diverse experiences and selected 19 exceptional young people from across BC and from different lands, with stories, struggles, and gifts to share with each other and the world.
Our journey with our first group of participants of the YPP began on February 28, with our first two-day module in Vancouver. We were full of anticipation and excitement because there are few opportunities for Indigenous and immigrant and refugee communities to learn together. These young people brought the teachings of their ancestors and the pain, struggles, and resistance to the legacy of colonization and displacement when doing advocacy, organizing, and systems change work. We have so very little time to breathe in and breathe out together to un-learn and re-learn.
The faculty for this module included: Michelle Nahanee, a Squamish leader and scholar with her daughter Paisley Nahanee; Kris Archie, a Secwepemc and Seme7 woman from the Ts’qescen First Nation, and Executive Director of the Circle on Philanthropy and Aboriginal Peoples in Canada; and Nathalie Lozano Neira, a facilitator, youth worker, women and migrant rights advocate who came as a refugee from Muisca territory in Colombia. Each of these powerful women shared important teachings for our journeys to decolonize our practices. We discussed equity, positionality, reconciliation, the importance of youth voices in public policy and decision-making, as well as asset mapping and the recognition of how much knowledge and experience each of the participants have to offer.
This first module was an important stepping stone to ground the program in the principles of racial equity and Indigenous worldviews to recognize that the work that has gone into developing this training, as well as the training itself, is taking place on the unceded territories of the Tsleil-Waututh, Musqueam, and Squamish peoples. We are working towards centering the diverse lived experiences of the LEVEL YPP participants and support the collective learning of overlapping struggles, strengths, and solidarity in order to influence public policy in ways that reflect individual and shared realities to build a better world.
The first module made my heart full of hope and gratitude as this opportunity is a dream come true for many of us. We are already busy getting ready for the next modules – we cannot wait!