On behalf of the Civic Opportunities Initiative Network (COIN), the New World Foundation, and Marga Incorporated, our fellow interns made their way to the “Big Apple!” All ten interns, along with Siria, Naftalie, Francesca and Danna, spent 25 hours together, driving and getting to know each other better. The FLIC and WeCount! interns, along with 50 others from Community Coalition (South L.A.), CHIRLA- Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of L.A., Make the Road New York, Southwest Organizing Project (New Mexico), and Tenants & Workers United (Northern Virginia) came together on Friday June 26th for COINS’s three-day kickoff retreat.
The retreat included discussions about race, class, gender, prejudice, discrimination, institutional power, privileges, and systems of oppression in the U.S. Activities addressed cross-cultural communication, teamwork-building, social justice, political leadership, academics and a “no-talent show.” We started by watching an introductory video explaining COINS’s main objective: to strengthen community leadership, establish intergenerational and interethnic collaboration, and stabilize community-based organizations as strong anchors for development in low-income communities. By creating strong relationships with organizations in their communities, youth will have an opportunity to incorporate active citizenship into their education— learning about service, advocacy, organizing, and what it takes to build effective community organizations. Before each workshop or activity we did an ice-breaker to make everyone feel comfortable.
We were divided into groups of five—each teammate from a different organization. We discussed academic empowerment and its goals. One goal was to understand the history of inequality in the U.S. and its education system. Another was to access where you are academically and practice tracking your progress. During one activity we learned how prejudice + discrimination + privilege + institutional power = oppression. We defined discrimination, privilege, and prejudice and differentiated one from the other. We wrote each other “fuzzies”—basically compliments for one another on sticky notes that we put up on a wall. It made us all feel positive and empowered.
And on the final day of the retreat, we took them off and read them. The interns went out for evening excursions at Times Square, and meals throughout the city. The entire trip was an exceptionally motivating and unforgettable hands-on experience for all the Miami/Homestead scholars. As our summer internships continue, we are bonding and connecting with one another, becoming more involved and building on our knowledge and awareness as we discuss pressing social issues in our communities.