Who are we beyond our current conditions? What does it look like to live in a world that truly values the brilliance, heart, and expertise of young people who are Black, brown, disabled, trans and queer, low income, immigrant and refugee?
This is what we do, what we believe in, and what we constantly ask ourselves at Next Up and Next Up Action Fund. We invest into the well-being and dreams of the young people we work with every day, year-round. As we see the rise in coordinated attacks against young trans and queer people across the U.S., states banning critical race theory and expunging the work of Black authors, activists and movements from our schools curriculums, the fight to keep out (and remove) SRO’s from schools, and so many anticipated, but still completely devastating impacts of systemic racism and oppression – we know that the moment for standing firm in our values of anti-oppression, racial justice, and youth liberation is as necessary as ever.
We must ask ourselves who we are beyond these oppressive systems, and how we can constantly support, invest in and fight for the civil rights and autonomy of young people. There is bountiful work put in by individuals, communities, groups, and organizations who are persisting and working to create a world that values the well-being of our communities, and affirms that our unique identities are the reason we are stronger together (not in spite of them). We will focus on this in our 2022 annual impact report. Hope. Aspirations. Fortitude.
Mariame Kaba, an “organizer, educator, archivist and curator” whose work “focuses on ending violence, dismantling the prison industrial complex, transformative justice and supporting youth leadership development,” affirms what we know to be true, “Hope is a discipline” and one we must practice all the time (http://mariamekaba.com/). It is our role in the movement to continue to push the confines of the world we live in while holding space for grief, joy, and rest.
We hope you are inspired by the continuous commitment and work of our team to stick to our values (I know I am): being youth-focused and youth-led, leading with authenticity and joy, and fighting for justice for all. Through multiple distinct and collaborative programmatic areas across Next Up and Next Up Action Fund, we have continued to build towards our collective vision of an Oregon where young people boldly lead the state forward, our democracy is inclusive and accessible, and our communities are strong and resilient.
This is our letter to young people in Oregon and beyond. We see you. We value you. We’re here to support you.
We hope we make you proud to support and be part of Next Up, because, without you, we could not be who we were, who we are, and who we are yet to become.
Forever in community,
Elona J. Wilson, Executive Director