‘Youth Speak Out! Activism for Our Future’

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Tsuru for Solidarity presents “Youth Speak Out! Activism for Our Future” on Saturday, March 6, from 1 to 2:30 p.m. PST.

The dire circumstances of asylum-seeking children and families held in mass detention facilities across the country has awakened voices of protest from young activists. Hear from extraordinary young people using their voices and their art to share stories about their personal experiences, their acts of solidarity, and their vision for the future.

Register here.

About the panelists:

Moderated by Skyla Sachiko Tomine, (17, Bainbridge Island, Wash.) high school activist and granddaughter of Tsuru for Solidarity Co-chair, Satsuki Ina. Skyla has organized classmates in middle school to protest gun violence. She has participated in direct actions to bring attention to the damaging environmental impact of net pen fish hatcheries, and she was a speaker at the Northwest Detention Facility rally and protest organized by La Resistencia and Tsuru for Solidarity in 2020. She has organized a Social Justice Club at Bainbridge Island High School and is a member of the Model United Nations Program for high school students.

Ivan Ramirez (14, Austin, Texas) has lived in sanctuary for the past four years with his mother Hilda in a church in Austin. Targeted for discrimination and violence as members of the indigenous Mayan Mam ethnic group, they escaped from Guatemala when Ivan was 7 years old, seeking asylum in the U.S. They were held in the Dilley family detention facility for 11 months. To avoid deportation they sought sanctuary at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church. Together with the Austin Sanctuary Movement, Ivan and Hilda are speaking out on behalf of all who must live within the protective walls of safe sites to avoid removal by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Ivan will share his story through a stop-motion animation project created with artist Edson Cruz.

Aida Salazar (Oakland) is the award-winning author of “Land of the Cranes,” the story of 9-year-old Betita and her fellow asylum-seekers who find ways to fly above the hatred keeping them caged inside a family detention camp. Betita’s family arrived in Los Angeles seeking refuge from cartel wars in Mexico. Her father describes their journey as a family of cranes that have returned to their promised land. Salazar was recently awarded an honor by the James Addams Peace Association, which recognizes children’s books of literary and aesthetic excellence that engage children in thinking deeply about peace, social justice, global community and equity for all people. She will share a short video about her novel.

Ayako Kiener (17, Oakland) is an artist whose illustrations include the cover and images of “The Big Book of Black and Japanese Unity,” a coloring book celebrating multiracial leaders and community collaboration. A joint project of Japanese Americans for Justice and Tsuru for Solidarity, its purpose is to provide stories and images for children of all ages to learn about historical and current community leaders in the Black and Nikkei community. As a high school senior, she has organized “Never Again Is Now,” a social justice club to increase student awareness and activism. Ayako will present a slide presentation of her illustrations.

Mina Loy Akira Checel (13, Culver City), a budding filmmaker, took on a school project called “Vote Your Future.” She chose “Immigration” as her topic of interest after participating in an event at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo. In a program there she was to read a letter written by Lillian Yamashita, a Japanese American child whose father was held in a federal internment camp in Santa Fe, N.M. during WWII. Other children read letters written by children incarcerated today in family detention facilities. This experience inspired her to focus her school project on the history of Japanese Americans during WWII and the repetition of history with today’s inhumane immigration policies. She will share her video project.

Lillian Ellis (12, El Cerrito) and Kaia Marbin (13, Alameda) organized and led “The Butterfly Effect: Migration Is Beautiful,” an art project with the goal of making 15,000 paper butterflies as a visual representation of the migrant children in detention in order to raise awareness and inspire action to end child detention. Their new goal is to create butterflies to represent the 76,020 children who were detained at the border last year. They chose butterflies because butterflies are beautiful and unique, just like people; and butterflies fly freely. Last year Kaia and Lillian and other youth led a rally with 1,000 people at Lake Merritt in Oakland in solidarity with migrant children, and then brought 15,000 butterflies to Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. They delivered butterflies to every U.S. senator’s office with a request to end child detention. They will share a video of their recent actions.

Kazu Friebert (12, Sacramento) organized Tsuru for Solidarity fold-ins at his middle school with the goal of educating classmates about the plight of children and families being held in detention while seeking asylum in the U.S. He is offering to jump-start a fundraising effort on behalf of 14-year-old immigrant Ivan Ramierz, who has been living in a sanctuary church for the past five years. Kazu, aka “Maskmaker Ninja,” is offering a $150 challenge donation from funds he raised designing and selling unique COVID-19 masks. The first five people making a $150 donation to Austin Sanctuary Network on behalf of Ivan will receive one of his special COVID-19 masks.

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