I finally got some time to sit down in front of a computer (late I admit) and compose my thoughts about my experience at the Youth Action Gathering (YAG) put on by the Sierra Youth Coalition.

It’s one of these experiences that I have difficulty summarizing in just a few words. We gathered together, 22 youth and 7 facilitators [although sometimes I almost felt like I was a youth myself while attending workshops cause they were that amazing], at MacSkimming about an hour outside of Ottawa a week ago. Things started out like any community usually does…plenty of peeps feeling out the environment and trying to get to know each other. It was interesting to watch as the community developed how everyone really started to drop their barriers and shared with one another. The connections, love, thoughtfulness, and growth was something that I’m happy to have be there to witness, facilitate, and also change myself.

We also had some really amazing speakers come and talk to us about things like anti-oppression, gay/lesbian/trans gender rights (pink triangle), landmines, the effects of weapons in our world (owned by civilians), and so much freakin more. I think it would be unfair to try and summarize it all in one paragraph as there was so much to learn. It was a real eye opener to be around the youth, learn from them, and also learn some amazing information from the speakers. Some things that kinda stuck out in my head included the fact that they are still removing landmines from many areas in the world. This includes people who go on their hands and knees and poke at the soil at 45 degree angles to find landmines that are hidden (yah it’s intense work and it’s the only way they can reclaim farm land). So I ended up signing the People’s Treaty against landmines.


I think the other major thing that stuck out was talking about oppression and what youth go through as gay/lesbian/transgender. Some of the youth shared stories about their lives with me that opened my eye to the struggle that they face living in a generation that is still not open to those who are different. We’ve come a long way baby, but not far enough! And yes tragically this does come back to people thinking that we are some kind of freak and should seek help or some kind of religious intervention. I find it so sad that as a society we can’t just stop and put ourselves in their shoes for a moment and see how they are being treated. Before the YAG I really had never talked to youth about those types of issues, and was humbled by some of the stories that I was told. AND I totally appreciated the talks that I did have.
I also have to admit that I am always inspired by the strength, courage, and determination of youth. I looked at my life as a youth and definitely feel that there was some choices that I had made different to empower myself. It was apparent to me that each of these peeps at the conference were completely unique (something that I love to see and watch). You could see in their eyes that they all wanted to do something different, and that some had struggled more than others. Thanks so much for sharing those with me guys I feel as though I learned so much from your experiences. It only made me really respect how difficult it must be being oppressed in any facet whether you are of a minority race, gay/lesbian/trans-gender/queer, an outcast, feeling different, etc.

If you hadn’t already guessed it I thought that the entire week was hugely rewarding. The facilitators were totally amazing too. I was impressed to see how much sanity and love Simmi gave to the entire gathering while really keeping everything flowing in the background. Yah yah I know we helped you out Simmi, but honestly without you it wouldn’t have happened in the first place and you can’t deny that one. HAH!

I should also mention that after this experiencing being in nature swallowed up by some beautiful trees and plants I had time to really think about my life. It’s safe to say that I really loved being around those youth, helping to break down some formed barriers, challenging them, loving them, and generally having fun with them. I really felt like they walked away with a better sense of a lot things. Something that was beautiful to watch them develop completely on their own. So yah youth empowerment is a amazingly strong and powerful force and I love the idea of doing that for longer than a 1 week stint. So who knows. I’ve been trying to find some various jobs I might be able to do in Australia when I head out there in November and that is certainly one of them.

Some things that really stuck out for me was the rap song that MC E and me (Stinky B) sang together during the talent show. Oh and the water fight with the kitchen / cooking geeks except probably the dish water in my face. YUCK. Oh oh and of course rappin to Bernado (hardcore punk) in the car on the way out of Ottawa after obtaining some amazing donations. Yah Bernado you loved it. Oh and there’s so much more…
It’s safe to say that I really miss everyone from the YAG, but then again lifes just about moving on and having new adventures, fun, learning, and loving.

Sending love, hugs, and lots of cool bike rides your way,

Shane

PS – I think I’d like to take this opportunity to send some seriously needed shout outs to some amazing friends here in Ottawa/Tdot for putting up with me, loving me, sharing with me, caring for me, and being the most amazing peeps I could ever have in my life. Shout out to Jess, Laurie, Switz, Kristin, Erica, Dunc, and Deiss! And for those that I’ve been spending time with off and on I love you too…just figured that since I’m kinda living fo free and occasionally eating for free I’d best pay some homage.

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