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Race, Justice, Outreach at the Heart of this New Orleans Camp

by Frances Kai-Hwa Wang /
Participants in VAYLA-NO's summer social justice organizing institute, for low-income youth in communities of color across New Orleans. Courtesy of VAYLA-NO

Forty youth, aged 12 to 24, will be learning about community organizing, political campaign building, and data collection this summer in a five-week social justice organizing institute with VAYLA New Orleans. Originally founded as the Vietnamese American Young Leaders of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, VAYLA New Orleans has evolved into a multiracial, multilingual, and multigenerational progressive social justice organization empowering local youth of color and their families, and featuring leadership from Asian American, African American, Latino American, and LGBT communities.

“VAYLA New Orleans is known as a racial and social justice organization. We believe in youth leadership and youth power with a family component,” Executive Director Minh Nguyen told NBC News, “because we believe young people can’t succeed and thrive unless their caregiver is supported.”

The summer institute focuses on racial, educational, environmental, and food justice, as well as identity development, health, creative arts, and group bonding. The institute prepares youth to tackle organizing issues with power analysis, power mapping, data collection, data analysis, building a base, mobilizing target audience, and outreach.

“When young people go to a board meeting, a lot of people listen because usually young people are not at these meetings,” said Nguyen. “We are building leadership, building confidence, and really changing the narrative around young people, especially young people of color. We do care about the community, we are part of the community, so let us be at the table to help figure this out.”

Other VAYLA New Orleans campaigns include successfully halting a landfill from being placed in their community, forcing a local high school to reopen, filing a Department of Justice complaint about language access for immigrant students and parents, and advocating for transportation as an equity issue.

 Participants in VAYLA-NO's summer social justice organizing institute, for low-income youth in communities of color across New Orleans. Courtesy VAYLA-NO

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