“We connect them to different social justice movements, and give them the tools they need to fight for the things and causes they believe in,” said Terrenze Rienton, the group’s youth coordinator.
Rienton, who came to the United States in 2006 at age 13, said many Filipino immigrants feel a sense of isolation. That’s why Ugnayan Youth not only organizes them, but also helps preserve Filipino-American history.
“In this current political climate, there’s a lot of people trying to distort and change history,” he said. “It’s up to the communities to really preserve and tell the real stories.”
Ugnayan Youth was part of the local coalition that defeated Amazon from coming to Queens. But in the aftermath of that fight, Rienton said the coalition wants to “build on that momentum.”
Over the weekend, they hosted a “Day of Action” to engage residents in conversations about a new way to think about economic development.
“We really want to introduce this concept of economic democracy,” Rienton said. “Really giving people the power to use the resources on what they need in their communities.
“If you leave it up to the millionaires and giant corporations, none of that would be reflected in our communities,” he added.
Rienton said the organizations want to create a system that gives resources “for the people, not for profit.”
The way to do that is by organizing residents, small businesses, faith institutions and other stakeholders and building trust.
“I think this is just the beginning of it, there’s a lot more work to be done,” Rienton said. “We need people power for that.”