I was born and raised in the Bronx and became a lead youth organizer with YMPJ in 2016 when I was a 17-year-old student at Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School (FLHFHS). I began at YMPJ by applying to the Community Organizing Leadership Academy (COLA).
During my time, I was involved in YMPJ’s work with the Sheridan Expressway and Concrete Plant Park revitalization, as well as the Bronx River clean up. As a community organizer, public service is essential because it is a vehicle to shine a light on systemic issues and implement practical solutions. The issues that plagued my community ignited my passion for service. When organizing for change, solutions are not created overnight, so providing direct services to your community in the interim is essential. YMPJ allowed me to apply my passion for housing policy, education reform, and environmental justice to develop solutions to improve the Bronx. After high school, I attended George Washington University in Washington, D.C. In my senior year, I returned to YMPJ to work on the Bronx Wide Platform (BWP), a set of initiatives supported by multiple organizations throughout the borough that address a broad range of issues, such as racial justice, economic democracy, and intergenerational power. I am now attending law school at the University of District of Columbia because I believe you need knowledge of relevant law, policy, and history to be a successful advocate. Therefore, attaining this knowledge is power, and the legal education I will receive will allow me to break down barriers to influence decisions for myself and my community.
One of my favorite memories with YMPJ was definitely the SWALE project. It was extremely impactful, and I think SWALE showed me that anything is possible for our community – including transforming a garbage barge into a floating food forest to bring direct services to those in need. The power of SWALE and what we were able to establish that summer is something I carry with me, to this day.
Another favorite memory was my experience as a community organizer during the pandemic. There were moments I felt helpless during quarantine, trying to think of innovative ways to serve my community. Seeing racial injustice, police brutality, and inequities in our community made me yearn for the opportunity to use what I learned throughout the years to work with YMPJ to serve alongside my community to uplift the Bronx during a time of crisis. When David Shuffler, YMPJ Executive Director, reached out and offered me an opportunity to contribute in this role, I helped YMPJ transition its COLA program into a virtual setting, which allowed me to teach other young people at FLHFHS about community organizing and connect to the BWP. This gave me an opportunity to pay it forward!
I have stayed connected to YMPJ because of the community – YMPJ has been family to me – and the Bronx will always be my home. YMPJ always gives me an opportunity to give back and contribute. My passion, my love, and my commitment to the Bronx and wanting it to be the best it possibly can be, (although it’s already really great) are what keep me connected.
I truly believe that my experiences with YMPJ and community organizing in the Bronx have contributed to my desire to attend law school and inform my choices to this day. My time with YMPJ built my belief in the power of the people, and that will continue throughout my life. The experience I had promoting and actually seeing a change in the Bronx, and addressing years of environmental and housing inequities, has been empowering and fuels my desire to continue to work to make a difference.