It is with an immense amount of love and gratitude that I announce my transition out of FEEST after 4.5years of growth, abundance and community learning. I began my journey at FEEST as a freshly-out-of-college 22 year old, called to movement work by way of deep hurt and anger towards schooling, white supremacy and capitalism. I’m leaving FEEST as a nearly 27 year old, inspired to organize through my deep love for young people, the Soufend, and my vision for a future where our behaviors as traumatized and oppressed  people are no longer criminalized. I am still angry. I am still upset at the ways our current systems do not prioritize  Black and Brown life, however, FEEST taught me that the most sustainable movements are deeply life affirming and center hope & connection.

image is of Cece, they are standing in front of a lake outdoors

I want many things from this lifetime; love, connection, community, but what I want more than anything is to be a part of collectively moving forward. Like many people in 2020, I felt a complex mixture of stuckness, hopefulness, hopelessness and yearning for something different. As an organizer, I see crisis as a portal to monumental change, where people have the power to leverage the political moment to win demands that just months ago seemed unattainable. We saw this with schools opting out of standardized testing, receiving stimulus checks from the government, cities announcing eviction moratoriums and creating 5 year plans to defund the police by 50-100%; the list goes on of the resources the government provided during the beginning of COVID-19 that proved it is possible for the government to show care for its people. While we have been given some resources, we are simultaneously witnessing a time of deep reflection, grief and mourning that has led folks to demand more from these institutions who have harmed us. And so, throughout this moment of history & my time at FEEST, I have asked myself what would a trauma-informed resistance look like and what personal choices do I have to make to align myself with that vision? 

My time as a Youth Organizer at FEEST has shown me that at the root, what people desire the most, is to feel a sense of belonging, care and connection. Every summer camp, we begin by asking students “what communities are you a part of?” Sometimes, students identify their ethnic, religious, and/or cultural backgrounds, but more often than not, the majority of our youth leaders start FEEST uncertain who their communities are. And this is intentional, right? It is not simply that our communities do not know how to be with each other, or that we as individuals aren’t putting in the effort to make care possible, but that the United States foundations of racial capitalism and exploitation of Black and Brown, working class people, is antithetical to care. 

At FEEST, our demands for Social Emotional Learning (SEL) at every grade level, goes far deeper than having young people be able to identify their emotions using an emotions wheel. Our demands for SEL in every class is a call to fundamentally change the way we engage with youth in the classroom, and to decriminalize youth behaviors that are more often than not, a learned behavior from these systems that have denied themselves and their families the freedom of living their lives authentically. We organize for trauma informed mental health resources in schools because our communities deeply yearn for care and connection, for a different, more joyful, human experience.

My favorite part about organizing with FEEST is that we center the vision, by living it. If we are going to fight for our school systems to center our health and wellness, then we are going to center Black and Brown Health and Wellness in our org. If the solutions students are identifying is the need for deeper care and community, then our staff models what it would look like to be a part of a world where we are accepted and valued for our wholeness. FEEST is a powerful place where transformation, love and abundance is at our core. Without love, care, or connection, movement work is not possible. We win, not by knowing what is wrong, but more importantly, by knowing what we want and holding a strong commitment to each other to move forward until we get it. 

I wish the FEEST Staff, Student Organizers, and Supporters, a future of deeper connection, belonging and wholeness. I am who I am because of who we are together. Thank you for having me for the last 4.5 years, I am changed forever because of the love and care of the FEEST staff, youth and community. 

In Solidarity, 

Cece Flanagan