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By Jesse Gates-Chinoy

© 2001 GEO, P.O. Box 115, Riverdale, MD 20738-0115

In the bottom of a church in Bangor, Maine, a revolutionary shift in the way the world works is taking place. A local group of youth, Youth Adelantando (YA) has rented the space for the night in order to hold a School Of the Americas Resistance Gathering. Members of the group, as well as other students and adults from the community sit in the audience listening to Flor de Guadalupe Orellana, a young woman from Bangor’s sister village in Carasque, El Salvador. YA invited three youth from El Salvador to come to Bangor on a speaking tour, but this night Guadalupe can’t finish her speech. The grief that is still present for Guadalupe after nine years, is clear in the room. She leaves the stage, and students, adults, Youth Adelantando members hug each other and cry together.

Youth Adelantando means Youth Going Forward, and as YA members we have been going strong in Bangor, Maine for 4 years. An entirely youth-run organization, YA’s follows its mission of creating a global youth community in which we are all aware of not just the impact of our actions, but also of the global system that our actions are a part of.

We are realizing that the actions of youth especially are an integral part of a larger corporate system. Our decision to buy a certain pair of shoes has been cultivated by multi-billion dollar advertising campaigns, and is a driving force behind the free trade zones, sweatshops, and U.S. trained death squads that keep them in place. Regardless of any conscious choice, we as North American youth are immersed in the global economy.

This fact gives us as youth the power to influence and radically change the corporate system. Youth Adelantando, through popular education, theater, and open forum discussions is beginning creating a community in which we can be aware of positive impacts of our actions. We have created an interactive theater piece entitled “The Human Board Game” that diagrams and explores where we all fit in the economic system, from shopping at the local mall to building relationships with Latin American youth. We have held absurdist theater actions at Wal-Mart ® stores to de-mystify and reclaim space for people, not just buying and selling. We have held monthly “Peace Talks,” open discussions for youth to share ideas about what they think the important issues in the community are. We talk about the pressures that we feel as youth within the global corporate system, looking for the root causes of these forces. Why does the Disney corporation spend so much advertising directly to us? It’s not because they think we have the most money, rather it is because the lobbyists and CEOs of Disney know that if youth were aware and enraged at their sweatshops in Haiti and around the world, Mickey Mouse wouldn’t stand a chance. Organized youth have the energy and enthusiasm to act, and the leverage to create change. Youth Adelantando works develop a community of organized youth, aware of the potential impacts of their actions around the globe.

As our youth community began to realize the power that we held within this system, some of the work of YA has shifted to the larger community, to open a space for a youth voice within local communities. We turned to our brothers and sisters in El Salvador. In Bangor, Maine’s sister village of Carasque, the Directiva, or Town Council is made up entirely of youth. Faced with task of survival within the global economy, the community of Carasque has created the space for a prominent leadership role for the youth, along with their energy and creativity. In our local community, Youth Adelantando invited three youth from El Salvador, including the 20 year old president of our sister village, to come on tour to speak about the impact of a youth voice in the community. They spoke in schools, they spoke to the police department and the city council, and they spoke about their lives. And they touched the lives of the youth in Bangor. That night in the church, when Guadalupe spoke about her experiences during the civil war in her country, the global economy had a very personal, very emotional, very human face. Youth present at the gathering have begun to organize, and to explore the true impact and power of their actions. We know that if we as youth organize and raise our voices, we have the power to create change.

The issue has become why act. Youth join in creating “globalization from below” not by producing or developing new or alternative models, but by breathing life into them. This involves accepting the challenge of stepping back and creating a cooperative culture. The Disney corporation knows that they must pacify the youth in order to function in the corporate economy. They have spent millions of advertising dollars engineering the system to convince youth to act in their favor. It is now the task of us as youth to find the real reasons to act. Through education we can decide that it is more important to mobilize our energy and creativity because of Guadalupe, than because of Mickey Mouse. Youth must join forces with the cooperative movement by creating a culture in which we are aware of the strength our actions, and aware of the reasons for acting. Youth must create a culture in which we are free to support cooperative models, replacing the current advertising forces of the corporate economy with the human face of our brothers and sisters around the world.

It is from the stories from our sister village that Youth Adelantando gained its name. During the war in El Salvador, when teachers and pastoral workers faced heavy persecution, a woman named Laura Lopez traveled with her daughter on Guazapa Volcano near San Salvador. She was a liberation theologist pastoral worker and traveled in secret with villagers from town to town with her bag of teaching supplies on her back. When the army came through and she had to flee, she was cut down by bullets, running away. She held her bag of teaching supplies out to her young daughter and said “Adelante,” go forward. In this spirit, Youth Adelantando goes forward.

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©2001 GEO, P.O. Box 115, Riverdale, MD 20738-0115