For Nau, Sustainability is non-negotiable. It means leaving a place better than we found it. No compromises. So it is easy for us to recognize that same spirit in our hometown’s youth activists and entrepreneurs. Like Nau, they’re not sitting back to wait for the vote, they’re getting things done. And they’re just getting started. We’d like you to meet them.
If we assume that what lies alone at the heart of our democracy is the vote, the most direct and obvious way in which we can participate in our democracy, then we’re dismissing the passion, tenacity, and tireless motivation for change found in some of our local activists who are too young to vote. Gabrielle Cosey, Karina Alcantara, and Taji Chesimet are three of the dozens of Portland’s youth activists currently spearheading this year’s What Now? event at on Dec. 1. They are proving to their own local communities that voting is only one little part of our civic duties. They’re also proving that being ineligible to vote is no excuse for not making an attempt at affecting policy that improves the lives of the people around us.
Gabrielle is the co-founder of Oregon Youth for Gun Reform, which is an organization that focuses explicitly on taking legislative action to combat gun violence in communities of color. So much of her activism is spent on the intersection between race and gun violence. Taji, who is the co-founder of a local non-profit, Youth Educating Police, spends much of his boundless energy providing input for the Portland Police Bureau around how anti-blackness ties into police brutality. However, for the What Now? event, he’s planning a discussion on the intersectionality of queer people and people of color. Karina, an undocumented student at Benson, will use this platform to discuss the unique challenges of being latinx and undocumented, particularly around having access to scholarships and reporting sexual assault. Karina, who can not vote, is a part of What Now? precisely for that reason. “I wanted to get involved because I believe in democracy and how people make change. I want to get other youth and people like me asking what is democracy?”
While at The Center, the coalition-led organization putting on this year’s What Now?, Gabrielle, Taji, and Karina each attend and lead a range of social justice workshops in addition to planning the events around this year’s What Now?. The all day event will consist of youth-led workshops during the day, and several youth activist speakers on stage in the evening. There will also be many other groups, causes, and non-profit organizations tabling throughout the day.
The What Now? event is free and open to everyone, and the youth activists are eager to get as many participants as possible into their workshops, particularly other youth. Gabrielle also hopes that teachers, and other people who are in positions of power will attend the workshops at What Now?. “We listen to teachers and people in power all day long, and What Now will be our chance to be heard, and their opportunity to listen to us.”
If you can vote, vote. But don’t stop there. Get outside with us and let’s change the world together. Nau is a Portland born clothing brand with a bold vision and a rebellious spirit. We can only save ourselves. Learn more about how you can be a part of it at Nau.com/outsiders.
What Now PDX is an all-day event of workshops, tabling and speakers organized and presented by the youth activists for social justice. This year’s event will be held on Saturday, Dec. 1. Tickets are free. Learn more about where What Now? will take place, its programming, and how to attend or support this year’s event at whatnoworegon.org
Full interviews with Gabrielle, Taji and Karina will be shared during the month at blog.nau.com