BIG APPLE BITE: Pinks and Ya-Yas in Chicago

Posted by CODEPINK Staff

Here in New York City, a substantial movement has evolved around ending military recruitment in public high schools. Many organizations, including CODEPINK NYC and the Ya-Ya Network (a citywide anti-racist, anti-sexist organization and allies with the LGBTQ community, staffed by young activists ages 15 to 19) have been spent much time for the past four years at student-teacher conferences, in meetings with administrators and guidance counselors, students and parents, and working with the City Council to help remove funding for the military officer's training program, JROTC, from the city budget (read more about that here).

So it was quite exhilarating two weeks ago for many of us to join counter-recruitment organizers from all over the country at the National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth conference in Chicago. Thanks to two scholarships provided by CP-NYC, we were able to bring two NYC high school students with us, Renee Laster and Gissaury Castillo, both part of the amazing girls' leadership center, the Lower Eastside Girls' Club. They joined the Ya-Ya team, fit right in, and took off with zeal. Both were anxious to spread the word at home, which they have already done at the LESGC summer camp program.  They can't wait to get back to school to teach about 'students not soldiers' and how students can fill out "opt-out" forms so recruiters cannot get access to all their private information, including their home addresses.  I am so proud that we provided the financial aid - it made a difference, and two young women have picked up on our issues and will continue the fight.

The conference itself met all my expectations - good workshops, networking with experienced C-R activists, new materials, common interests and frustrations, and above all, a passion for changing from militarization of youth in high schools to a community of education for peace. There were 100 students - some new to the issues and many longer term activists. The communion among them was inspiring and their energy to make change dramatic. I was moved by their insights and determination to make a difference.

Barbara Harris, a 72-year-old grandmother, former teacher and lifelong New Yorker, for the past four years has spear-headed major work in New York City to end military recruitment and JROTC programs  in city high schools, known for their predatory targeting of low-income schools, false promises and lies. Read a New York Times article about her work here.

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