By Nap Pempena, Yves Nibungco, and Christine Fabro
“Kabataan, unite! Fight for people’s rights.”
300 Filipino youth and students gathered from all over the U.S. on September 30, 2017 for a national conference entitled, “Kabataan Magkaisa (Youth Unite) 2: Kumilos Na (Act Now)! History Is in Our Hands
The following day, 24 organizations put this chant to action by by formally launching a national youth alliance, the Kabataan Alliance, to tackle the burning issues of the Filipino community in the U.S., Philippines, and across the world.
The national conference and founding assembly was held at Balboa High School in the heart of the Excelsior neighborhood. This, according to the conference organizers, was an intentional move to emphasize the community roots and working class orientation of the conference. The Excelsior is one of San Francisco’s last working class neighborhoods and is part of District 11, home to the largest population of Filipinos in San Francisco, as well as the site of rapid gentrification.
“Legalization for all! Defend DACA!”
Kabataan Alliance takes a stand for immigrants.
Fighting on Two Fronts
The conference was opened by Congresswoman Sarah Elago, an activist-legislator and the sole youth representative in the Philippine Congress. In her keynote speech, she reminded Filipino youth in the U.S. that their struggles in this country are directly tied to those in the Philippines. “Thousands everyday are forced to migrate [from the Philippines], an average of 6,000 daily.” Of the 15 million Filipinos overseas, almost a third are in the U.S. Elago also talked about the pervasive poverty and increasing killings in the country.
The conference was packed with workshops, with facilitators coming from coast to coast. Workshops emphasized the importance of collective action in the face of injustice. The topics of the workshops ranged from forced migration, LGBTQ issues, human rights violations in the Philippines, and women’s empowerment, to theater, traditional martial arts and music, and mental health.
A panel of youth speakers reinforced the lessons learned during the workshops by shedding light on the experiences of migrant working-class Filipinos. One of the panelists, a 24-year old DACA recipient, rallied attendees to fight for undocumented immigrants, declaring, “I deserve to be here, and the youth are the future. I’m not going anywhere without a fight. No human being deserves to be illegal. Defend DACA and fight back!” Of the 800,000 total DACA recipients, 10,000 are Filipino.
Capping the conference was a cultural showcase, “Community is Home: Culture and Music Against Displacement.” Various musical, dance, and theater acts by community performers resonated the theme of the weekend. Hip-hop acts by the Kasamas, Shining Sons, and by the Carson Senior High School Maharlika Club were some of the highlights of the show.
“End Martial Law! Save our schools! Stop the killings!”
Kabataan Alliance takes a stand for human rights in the Philippines.
Youth Making History
Conference participants marked the first day of Filipino-American History Month with the launch of Kabataan Alliance. The alliance approved its constitution and a 3-year plan, which focuses on educating, uniting, and acting upon issues in the U.S. affecting Filipinos, such as education, immigrant and workers’ rights, and solidarity with non-Filipinos. The alliance also resolved to campaign for human rights, including indigenous people’s rights, in the Philippines.
The Executive Board that will guide the alliance for the next 3 years is composed of Edmund Nabua (Chicago) as Education Director; Jewelle Dela Cruz (Los Angeles) as Finance Director; Patrick Racela (San Francisco) as Internal Vice President; Chrissi Fabro (New York City) as External Vice President; and Kenneth Crebillo (Portland) as President.
Fabro emphasized the need to stand for human rights in the Philippines. “To understand why we are here as Filipino youth in the U.S. is to understand the grave injustices that are happening in the Philippines that force our families to migrate. We must continue to raise awareness about the systemic violence in our home country, including the Duterte administration’s bloody war on drugs. As Filipino youth in the U.S., we can campaign to put international pressure on the Duterte administration to stop the killings.” To date, there have been more than 13,000 killed under President Duterte’s drug war in the Philippines.
Crebillo called on all Filipino youth to continue building more unity among the youth to fight for the rights and welfare of all marginalized Filipinos, especially migrant, working class, and indigenous communities. “We are not just here to fight for our own future, but the future of all generations that come after us. Like the vibrant youth who joined the Katipunan to fight against Spanish colonization, to the the youth who were instrumental in toppling the Marcos dictatorship, we will continue the fight for a brighter future.”
Rep. Elago’s final call to the participants challenged them to truly take history into their own hands: “I have high hopes that our generation will be the generation that will finally end systemic ills that have long caused suffering, exploitation, oppression, and plunder in many parts of the world. It is upon the young people of today, to tread the path of struggle, to decisively put an end to structural ills, and to prevent history from repeating itself.”
For more information about Kabataan Alliance, visit at www.kabataanalliance.org.