by Monet Wilson

DeRay Mckesson“Who are you in the world?” A powerful question asked by Deray Mckesson—prominent leader for civic engagement and activism—at the #YearUpVoices4Change event which connected 120 students with alumni and community activists.

Deray followed by outlining three types of people he has come across in his work as a social activist: “salt shakers,” “sugar chasers,” and the “bridge builders.”

The “salt shakers,” put salt on their dinner before they even have tasted it and they have a hard time seeing that “our tomorrows will be better than our todays.” When you offer ideas for solutions, they say that it won’t work and they have little hope that the arc of the moral universe, bends towards justice.

The “sugar chasers” are obsessed with the high of the fight instead of the end goal of freedom. They show up to the table, they show up to the protest, but they want to be heard and seen more than they want to do the work.

Its the “bridge builders” who are the unique gift to the world. They are the ones that can see an empty space and see that a bridge can be built. They see ingredients and can make a plan to change the world. I believe Year Up students and alumni are uniquely positioned to not only build bridges but see where bridges can be built for the #OpportunityMovement.

After a full day of conversation and workshops, Monet Wilson, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Facilitator for Racy Conversations, Recruitment Specialist at Year Up Bay Area, Program Coordinator for the Bayview Hunters Point TILL Program, and an alum of Year Up (Class July 2014), provides four takeaways that anyone can do to get more civically engaged and position yourself to see the bridges that can be built:

1.) Politics through small actions. There are several low maintenance ways you can become politically active through community involvement: take part in a 1-day protest, attend your local City Hall council meeting and voice your opinion, or learn more about the politically active nonprofits in your area and see if they have meetings that community members can attend. Here are some organizations where I attend community meetings: Coleman Advocates for Adults, Children and Youth and YUBA Alumni Council Meetings.

2.) Identify challenges firsthand. Think about the core community challenges you’ve experienced or have seen firsthand. What sparks your interest? Identify things that you would like to fix or find solutions for. There are organizations that hold focus groups to help research some of these first-hand experiences with the community members most impacted. I attend monthly meetings with a group called the Last 3 Percent, they are a group of African American Community writers, Community Activists Lawyers and Software Engineers who are from San Francisco and have remained in the city in the midst of gentrification and changes to their city. They also have a weekly free Political Awareness Class in Bayview. I am also connected to the San Francisco Youth Commission who offers training in activism and outreach with other young adults.

3.) Use your skills as a resource. Volunteer with a business or non-profit that is doing something you believe in and take the time to network with people who can connect you to similar or more in-depth engagements.

4.) Lastly, VOTE. Your vote matters and our country’s future depends on it. Don’t just vote in the big election but vote carefully in the small elections as well. Many of the people and measures that we vote for in the smaller elections have more of a direct impact on the local communities issues. I know that people have fought and died for us to have this right and I aim to not only respect their contributions but use my right and voice as much as I can.