Our Youth Global Leadership 2016 Insight Trip, “Resilient Communities: Exploring Social Change in13346991_1186304044724768_7145523546178906899_n the Midwestern United States,” is currently in progress; eleven program participants are on a unique journey throughout the US Midwest to explore themes related to community organizing, immigration policy, racial justice, urban agriculture, alternative economics, and labor justice. The following post provides a first-hand account of the first segment of their experience. Thanks to the YGL documentarian committee for the presentation of this blog post!

As we approach the end of our time in Chicago, Youth Global Leaders want to share what we’ve been learning with Mexico Solidarity Network (MSN). MSN is 
a community organization focused on the fight against deportations and the systems that take advantage of oppressed groups. We have been partaking in several group discussions and uncovering some of the harsh realities of immigration. The community partners here have been opening many conversations with common themes like immigration, deportation, capitalism, racism, neoliberalism, and incorporating social justice back home. In addition to these conversations, we have gotten the chance to tour not only the neighborhood of Albany Park, but also Millennium Park in downtown Chicago. Seeing the city has been a culture shock for some, and an overall expansive experience. In one of our first discussions, we were asked to write about our sensations and experiences regarding the city. The following quote from a journal entry by YGLer Serena Rusk (graduating senior), stood out to us:

“I love looking at architecture at the style of buildings and the way they have been transformed by the people who live in them. People in cities work hard to make the places they inhabit reflect themselves in some way. I’ve loved experiencing the murals, posters, and graffiti that line the walls because it allows me to experience a snapshot of the 13394060_1186431328045373_1139298264748594358_nthoughts of the community. In El Centro Autonomo I can feel the energy of resistance, empowerment, and autonomy from looking at the walls. The people hear and speak collectively through their space without having to say anything at all.”

Many of us have felt moved by our individual experiences, we feel deeply affected by the stories we’ve heard and the genuine openness of the community partners. Storytelling and empathy have been prominent themes of the trip that evoke a feeling of obligation to make change in our own communities and within ourselves. Sydney Sessions, a senior at New Vista High School, has also felt very moved by these experiences.

“It’s been such an expansive experience for me. Before we left for Chicago, I knew that I wanted to make a personal connection with families experiencing deportation. Being here, it’s impossible not to feel empathetic with families and individuals who have suffered at the hand of the system. Hearing the stories of parents ripped from children because of unreasonable and flawed policies makes my stomach turn. Throughout this experience, we have been consistently asking each other, ‘How can we use these stories and experiences in our own lives?’, and we’ve come to several conclusions. First, we have to create a conversation around being undocumented and the practices within having that title in the United States. And second, we need to understand immigrants as humans and empathize with their situations and injustices.”

13417517_1184964464858726_5328772565768199670_n (1)We’re so grateful for this amazing opportunity to be here in Chicago and hear the stories of people experiencing injustice.

To read more about the Mexico Solidarity Network, please click here. Interested in learning more the Youth Global Leadership program and our Insight Trips? Please watch the mini-documentary of our 2015 journey, “Bearing Witness and Borderlands: Resilient Communities in the Southwestern United States.”