2019 N2N Annual Grantee Convening
Our Stories: Advancing our Multiracial Allyship Together
June 21, 2019
By Aileen Balahadia, N2N Program Consultant
On June 12, Neighbor to Neighbor (N2N) welcomed 116 grassroots grantees, funders and partners together for our 5th annual N2N Grantee Convening at the Bethaday Community Learning Space in White Center. It felt like a festive family reunion, especially since it was the warmest early summer evening of the year, and tastes from local White Center area restaurants fueled both longstanding and new connections among attendees.
Attendees at the panel and discussion (photo courtesy of Mel Ponder)
The N2N program supports grassroots efforts that increase engagement, power and influence of community members affected by poverty and racial disparities. With a history of addressing systemic racism and inequity, the Convening is an opportunity to lift up the N2N grantees’ stories in a safe and diverse forum and to push the boundaries of what multiracial allyship actually looks like. There were 36 N2N grassroots grantees that attended and mingled with representatives from over 20 different partners and funders. Attendees come to listen, learn and draw inspiration from one another.
Like previous years, the evening started off with Neighborhood Meet Ups for N2N’s 3 focus neighborhoods of Kent, South Seattle and White Center. This networking time is specifically for and led by grantees to discuss and connect as they so desire.
Co-emceed by N2N advisory committee members Mares Asfaha and Alice Park, the Convening officially began with a heartfelt welcome and call to inspired action by new Chief Impact Officer Kris Hermanns of the Seattle Foundation. A N2N retrospective video, produced by Ijo Arts Media Group, recapped the impact N2N has had on three specific organizations: One America, Rainier Beach Action Coalition, and Mother Africa.
The all-youth panel discuss their ideas and experience (photo courtesy of Mel Ponder)
Given overwhelming feedback from 2018’s event, we featured for the first time a N2N grantee all-youth panel to center the stories and wisdom of youth in our community. Youth leadership from AGE Up (All Girl Everything Ultimate), Eat With Muslims, FEEST (Food Empowerment Education Sustainability Team), FIGHT (Formerly Incarcerated Group Healing Together) and Our Future Matters/Yes Foundation shared stories of how they address racism and healing, while uplifting community and changing systems for the better. Erlinda Pablo Perez from FEEST talked about how youth have urged school districts to create healthier, more ethnic foods to be served at schools in Highline and Seattle. Savannah Son from FIGHT is organizing young Asian Pacific Islanders around issues of criminal justice and immigration reform especially since many of their families or they themselves have been targeted and impacted by those system. When asked what advice they’d give to the majority adults in the room on how to support youth leadership, Brandon Trujillo from AGE Up said, “Let us fail if we need to so we can make mistakes and learn. Don’t step in unless safety is a concern.” Ilays Aden from Eat With Muslims shared that, “Adults can’t have adult expectations of youth; we must still allow youth to be themselves, but also know how to let them make their own decisions.” Lastly, moderator Pulemau Savusa from Our Future Matters uplifted an important theme shared, “Youth get it. They know how to talk about race. They understand how systems aren’t designed to support them. What we need is for adults to let youth lead.”
Graphic facilitation from the panel
Community conversations followed the youth panel. Facilitated by trusted, local partners Na’ah Illahee Fund and Wayfind/NAC (as a newly merged organization), the two topical issues were raised given feedback from previous year’s events. One focused on “How to be a better Ally to Indigenous Communities” and the other focused on “Redefining Capacity Building in Communities of Color”. Both shared themes of healing, mobilizing and sustaining our movements and both involved critical
It’s critically important that N2N continues to listen, learn and document these Convenings to share broadly. This year we welcomed the graphic facilitation support from Community Café Collaborative and appreciated their artful depiction of the community themes and quotes from the evening. A final report will be made widely available in late Summer.
The evening ended with continued networking and time to enjoy each other’s company. N2N recognizes that relationships take nurturing and we don’t often make the space for it in today’s busy world. Our hope is this annual event continues to create a shared sense of ownership for the work of N2N and that it is that very collective energy that will advance racial and economic equity in our communities.