For Providence Youth Student Movement (PrYSM), the fight to advocate for disenfranchised communities was happening long before any one administration came into power.
“Our work and the call to action started way before this administration,” explains PrYSM executive director and co-founder Sarath Suong. “The 2016 results were devastating of course, but we knew that what mattered was that the government itself continues to create and uphold laws that continue to oppress our people.”
Advocating for the Southeast Asian, queer, and trans youth of color communities, PrYSM has been working to “organize our communities to break the cycles of state violence.” One recent, high profile example of their efforts was the role they played in the passing – and ensuring of proper implementation – of the Community Safety Act (CSA), a citywide ordinance to protect people living in Providence from police misconduct. As one of the most comprehensive pieces of racial profiling legislation in the country, the CSA has become a model for other organizations and municipalities.
“We know that what we do locally – in the smallest state with the biggest heart – can have a big impact on a national level,” explains Suong. “We always make sure that we’re connected to larger movements and campaigns. What we do here cannot be in isolation.”
While the institutional injustices have long plagued these communities, there’s no denying that targeted attacks have been on the rise. To combat what’s happening to refugees, immigrants, and LGBT and minority communities, PrYSM will be bolstering its community defense programs, and will continue fight for social justice. The key, according to Suong, is to recognize the community’s youth as the vehicle for change that they truly are.
“Change in this country and our communities happens with young people, and if we prepare for their future leadership, then we’re really missing out on the work that they’re doing right now,” he says. “We will always work with and support those who are the most disenfranchised.”
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