A Call For Unified Community Organizing

We live in a world where a black man kneeling during the national anthem at a football game gets more public outrage than an innocent black man dying at the hands of police officers. We live in a world where one of the most powerful countries in the world elected a president who “leads” with the grace and tact of a Tasmanian Devil. Our society is becoming an increasingly dangerous place for black and brown people and our work has never been more important.

The Rockaway Youth Task Force is committed to preparing youth to fight injustice in our community and we see the societal need for civic minded young people. We take pride in our age and we embrace the challenges that come with our novice standing. At the same time, we recognize that we have so much more to learn from those who have been in this game for years and know the rules. Even so, society often pits the younger generation against the older generation. It’s common to find “millennials” described as entitled and selfish, while older generations are touted as being stubborn and stuck in their ways. These descriptors only serve to take away our power and prevent us from taking collective, unified action.

Community organizing provides a unique opportunity to bridge the generation gap. Community organizers create an environment in which children grow up seeing their parents, neighbors, and community members fight for justice. However, when those youths become of age and want to join the movement, they are often shut down and cited as being too young. Oftentimes, these leaders hold on to power and knowledge for reasons other than improving our community. These sentiments create a culture of animosity and discord between the young and old; the novice and the experienced. RYTF believes that there is power in collective action and our goals can only be achieved through generational cohesiveness.

We pride ourselves on our deep community ties and relationships with community members, but we also understand that we are young. And with youth comes inevitable naivety. We implore those who know more to teach us. We organize today because we saw our parents and community members do it yesterday. And we hope our children will carry on tomorrow. But we need to create a culture of passing the torch to younger generations. We are doomed to repeat mistakes if we are not mentored and guided by folks who have fought some of these battles long before we were born.

We recently lost a community hero, Manny Fiallo Jr., and part of what makes his loss so harrowing is the loss of a vital community connector. Manny devoted himself to his community and worked to bridge the gap between the older generation and the younger generation in Rockaway. He was a leader who sought to improve his community at every opportunity, whether it be at a precinct council meeting or on the basketball court. People like Manny understand the power of connecting people, regardless of age, and given his untimely passing, we need more folks who are willing to step up and do the same.

We are ready to engage, learn, and rally beside our community members, old and young, and we strive to be an organization that takes advantage of the generational knowledge that exists in our community. The time for fighting injustice is now and we can only succeed as a community. Splintered factions will not lead to success, but a movement powered by youthful passion and tempered by the experience and expertise of older generations will be a force to be reckoned with. Are you with us?