Monsoon Asians & Pacific Islanders in Solidarity, in partnership with AF3IRM (, a transnational feminist organization, held ourr 5th Annual Summer School of Youth Activism from June 27, 2018 through June 30, 2018 in Des Moines, IA. The four-day program was open to all youth grades 7th through 12th, and took place at the DMACC Capitol Center and the Monsoon Healing Community Space. The curriculum was built to provide youth with the knowledge and skills needed to organize student-led campaigns and help move youth activism forward. Topics ranged from healthy relationships to naming oppressions of all forms, to gender-based violence including militarism harassment and rape, to practicing intersectionality and analyzing patriarchy. In 4 days, participants were able to gain direct-action organizing skills to plan and execute a youth-led campaign. They carried out these skills by concluding the Summer School of Youth Activism at the Des Moines-Families Belong Together Rally on Saturday, June 30, 2018.
Throughout the Summer School of Youth Activism, participants were challenged to think of social issues that affected their communities. Because the majority of participants were sons and daughters of immigrants and refugees, the overwhelming issue brought forth was immigration, specifically the separation of migrant families at our southern borders. Participants learned how to shape a public voice that stemmed from their personal narratives to build not only a personal outlet, but also a public platform. Techniques included dance, theatre, art, written form, and public speaking.
On the third day, the youth collectively wrote a commanding speech opposing the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy, and created two hand-painted canvas banners with powerful imagery and messaging. They contacted hosts of the Des Moines-Families Belong Together Rally to speak on behalf of youth, and at the end of the day, was on the event page as the youngest scheduled speakers of the rally.
On the final day, they attended the rally with the support of their friends, family, and community at the Iowa State Capital Building. Their presence was immediately felt. The youth participants gained access to the front of the crowd near the microphone, displaying their propaganda in front of hundreds of protestors. They negotiated their way to speak sooner than originally scheduled, and were the only ones to call out deep-rooted issues such as colonization influenced by privilege. This helped them gain media attention and arguably the most positive reception from the audience.
The 2018 Summer School of Youth Activism program served 16 youth participants between the ages of 12 and 17, four Monsoon staff members and volunteers, and three AF3IRM facilitators from the New York-Chapter, San Francisco/Oakland-Chapter and Seattle-Chapter. Over 12 communities were represented by participants and facilitators, including Burmese, Caucasian, Filipino, Latinx, Jewish, Karen, Laotian, Somalian, Tai Dam, Thai and Vietnamese communities. Individuals from the LGBTQIA communities were also represented. Participants learned how to draw connections between their personal narratives and the resistance models of their ancestors to build upon their activism and publicly addressing the needs of the youth in their communities.