Creating Unity in the Yakima Valley: Indigenous+Immigrant Community Building


January 30, 2013

Incredibly inspirational, Johnny Buck attended our leadership training in Yakima this year and shares his thoughts about the training and Eastern Washington immigrant communities. He promotes social change within his community and strives for its improvement.

He is actively involved in the Native Youth Leadership Alliance: "The NYLA movement is a space where young Native leaders can lead with NYLA core values, create positive and sustainable social change with other young Native leaders. In our communities, leadership is for life – we are building NYLA for the present and for future generations."

Johnny reflected on the NALP training in this post which he graciously offered us to reprint:

I had an amazing opportunity to attend a training in Yakima, Washington, organized by the national New American Leaders Project (NALP) and Wellstone Action!, the Washington immigrant rights organization One America, and the new organization 21 Progress with NYLA co-director Sophia Kizilbash. At first, I was a bit hesitant during the application process because of the focus towards 1st and 2nd generation immigrants. I applied anyways, because I feel that in the Yakima Valley, Natives and Latinos need to begin to start working together on some of the common broader issues we are dealing within our communities.

I felt very welcomed into the space and throughout the training I gained a deeper respect for the immigrant story and how many struggles we have in common. It gave me many ideas and the need for us to collaborate to begin building relationships with each other to start to decrease some of the tension we have towards each other as different ethnicities.

The biggest positive was that it turned out to be a space where I can begin to cultivate relationships with the Latino Community and how supportive they were also. Breaking out of my own box of just working with Native people was the biggest challenge for me there, and pivoting from preconceived notions I had about the immigrant experience and getting a broader view to focus on the deep issues we face in common. One of the most powerful skill building exercises for me was developing my stump speech. I realized it was hard to tell my story to an immigrant audience and initially I just focused on the negative. Through the safe space the training provided, I was able to be vulnerable and receive feedback on how to be more sensitive and unifying in the way I shared my vision for the ways our communities can work together. So much is at stake and we can’t stay in our isolated circles anymore.

The training was a huge positive in the Yakima Valley, mostly because it was the first of its kind. Our rural communities need leaders that represent the communities that live there. We need more access to trainings to demystify the process of becoming an elected official and how to support candidates to get elected. Both Native and Latino communities in the Yakima Valley need this support, and together we can support each other for a more just future for our children.

I am excited to further connect with Latino leaders and to further connect relationships with others in our communities. I got an invitation to speak with KCSR Chicano Style Radio and DJ Conchita who was a fellow participant. I’ll post more about our conversation and how things develop soon.

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