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What Kamala Harris Told Our Youth

Saturday morning, 11.07.20, as the domino chain of media outlets broke the news that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won with the greatest voter turnout in US history, it was a watershed moment for the nation and a water shedding moment for me. Hyperventilating a release of tears, joy, anxiety, fear and disbelief turning into belief bubbled through my heart, brain and eyes as the votes were still being counted and debated.

This breaking news made me think of one of our first experiences with Kamala Harris in 2004.

She agreed to be interviewed by BAYCAT youth filmmakers for their first short film called, Bayview Is. When asked about how they should deal with the negative perceptions that the media makes about their neighborhood, Bayview Hunters Point, she said, “One of the ways to impact media and the way it covers is to make sure that when you don’t like something, you call the TV station or you write a letter to the editor so that your voice is heard. The best thing you can do is make sure your voice is heard.”

 Kamala Harris speaks to BAYCAT youth filmmakers (2004)
Kamala Harris speaks to BAYCAT youth filmmakers in 2004 in their short film, "Bayview Is."

Kamala Harris was an inspiration to our youth that day and to me, as BAYCAT was a nascent nonprofit with a mighty mission to fight racism, sexism and to create greater social justice through storytelling.

We believe if we can change the storytellers, we can change the world.

Sixteen years later, it’s no surprise to see the power of youth voice and how much youth voice matters at BAYCAT and in this election. Alongside a multiracial coalition lead by Black women organizers, young voters and especially youth of color increased their turnout in 2020 from 2016 and the “overwhelming support for President-elect Joe Biden from youth of color was one of the defining elements of the election,” according to a study done by CIRCLE of Tufts University.

At BAYCAT, we work with youth as young as 11 to young adults up to 25 years old. No matter if they are eligible to vote yet, we educate them to use the tools of digital media, filmmaking and graphic arts to speak up and to create stories about issues that affect them, their families and communities.

From education, racism, climate change, to the effects of the pandemic, BAYCAT youth are socially minded, thoughtful and aware that their voice does matter.
Example of graphic designed this Summer by Sydnie Chapman, age 13
Example of graphic designed this Summer by Sydnie Chapman, age 13

As this week unfolds through moments of celebration by some and the lack of conceding by others, there’s still a foreboding pit in my stomach as the results of the election also reveal through the data, a deep divide in our country, states, cities and neighborhoods. Our sleeves remain rolled up at BAYCAT as we continue to fight for racial equity, and as we stand in solidarity with our youth, their families, our partners, employers, donors, community, our City, the Bay, and the majority of Americans who voted to preserve the soul of our nation. Join us in fulfilling our collective responsibility to make sure our BIPOC youth voices are amplified and heard.

Take a moment to share this blog post with someone who stands with you in these values.

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