The Executive Board of the Kabataan Alliance is pleased to announce the success of the recently concluded 2nd Kabataan Magkaisa National Filipino Youth Conference and founding of Kabataan Alliance on September 30 to October 1 at Balboa High School, San Francisco, California. The conference, themed “Kumilos Na! (Act Now!) History Is in Our Hands,” was held in time to kick-off this year’s Filipino American History Month.
The conference represented Filipino youth and students across the United States. It was convened by major national and regional Filipino youth organizations: Kabataan Alliance (formerly known as Kapit Bisig Kabataan Network, KBKN), Anakbayan-USA (AB-USA), the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON), and the Northern California Pilipinx American Student Alliance (NCPASA). It was attended by over 300 Filipino youth, both individuals and representatives of over 50 organizations in high schools, colleges, and communities from 61 towns and cities across the country.
The conference tackled various issues ranging from student debt, criminalization of immigrants, gentrification, and racism here in the United States; to Duterte’s drug war, displacement of indigenous communities, and the human rights situation in the Philippines. Participants brainstormed concrete ways in which Filipino youth in the U.S. through the Kabataan Alliance can respond to these pressing issues.
The next day, the national assembly of Kabataan Alliance convened for the first time to approve its constitution and three-year plan, affirmed its National Executive Board, and officially founded the Kabataan Alliance as a national alliance of Filipino youth in the United States.
The conference was opened by the Filipino Community Center’s Kabataan Program with an original song, as well as a welcome message by Balboa High School’s principal, Freedom Allah Siyam. Patrick Racela, the Northern California regional coordinator of KBKN, empowered the crowd by reminding them that their presence at the launch of Kabataan Alliance was a huge contribution to the strengthening of the Filipino community nationwide.
Following the introductory messages, the keynote speaker, Congresswoman Sarah Elago, took the stage with a fiery and heartfelt speech. Elago, an activist-legislator and the sole youth representative in the Philippine Congress, 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,” explaining that this exodus is due to the pervasive poverty and increasing killings in the country. Her 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.”
TACKLING IMPORTANT ISSUES
20 different workshops were held during the conference, with facilitators coming from coast to coast. Workshops emphasized the importance of collective action in the face of issues such as forced migration, attacks on the LGBTQ community, and human rights violations in the Philippines. In a workshop led by Bindlestiff Studio, “Act & Move: Theater as a Form of Resistance,” participants created moving tableaus that depicted different social issues, from mental health to immigration. Several workshops covered indigenous Filipino dance and music, where participants were not only able to learn dance steps and how to play instruments, but also the importance of understanding the struggles of those indigenous communities today.
A panel of youth speakers reinforced the lessons learned during the workshops by shedding light on the experiences of migrant, working-class Filipinos. Josh Jimenez of Anakbayan Long Beach recounted the struggles of being a working youth driven to gang activity at a younger age. Moises Azurin, a high school student who migrated to Maryland in 2011, grappled with the decision to join the military to access higher education even though he had no desire to enlist. Jewelle Dela Cruz, the Southern California KBKN regional coordinator, shared her experience fighting for Filipino studies in California through Assembly Bill 123. Karen Roxas, a migrant youth organizing with Migrante Los Angeles, called on attendees to organize not only students, but migrant workers who continue to be victims of trafficking, wage theft, and other forms of exploitation. The last panelist, 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!”
After a lively day of speakers and workshops, participants were able reflect in smaller breakout groups. “Launch and recruit organizations into the alliance!” and “Help undocumented high school students with the college process!” were just a few of the ideas youth brainstormed during the session.
COMMUNITY IS HOME
Kabataan Magkaisa 2 wrapped up its first day with a night of performances themed “Community Is Home: Music and Culture against Displacement.” In line with the overall theme of the weekend, the cultural night meant to inspire attendees to work for a society where families would not need to separate in order to survive, and where communities could live in peace without being pushed out by development projects. Various musical, dance, and theater acts by community performers energized the crowd. 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.
KABATAAN ALLIANCE LAUNCH
The second day of Kabataan Magkaisa 2 opened with a message from Justin Rausa, a field representative from the Office of the Assemblymember Rob Bonta. He encouraged the youth to make an impact on society, just as Filipino organizers like Larry Itliong did during the farmworker movement, saying, “You have the opportunity to dream for something better. So we need you to continue to dream, continue to push, and continue to fight.” Katrina Liwanag, a member of San Francisco State University’s Kappa Psi Epsilon, followed Rausa’s speech with an original song that asserted the right to resist in the face of injustice.
The conference organizers went on to mark the first day of Filipino-American History Month by officially launching the Kabataan Alliance. The alliance aims to build national unity among Filipino youth and student organizations to advocate for the rights and welfare of Filipinos in the U.S., the Philippines, and around the world. Its vision is to unite and empower Filipino youth across the country to engage in community organizing and advocacy to build towards a just society where people can reach their full potentials.
Kabataan Alliance affirmed the membership of its 31 founding members hailing from California, Oregon, Washington, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, and Maryland:
- Western Washington University Filipino American Student Association
- Portland State University Kaibigan
- PIN@Y: Filipinos in Northeastern Illinois University
- Anakbayan Chicago
- Samahan from Chicago
- Anakbayan Long Beach
- Pilipino American Coalition – California State University Long Beach
- Samahang Pilipino, University of California Los Angeles
- Anakbayan San Diego
- Oberlin College FASA (Filipinx-American Student Assocation)
- Anakbayan Portland
- Pilipino American Collegiate Endeavor (PACE) San Francisco State University
- Seattle University United Filipino Club
- Stanford University Pilipino American Student Union (PASU)
- Anakbayan East Bay
- University of Portland Filipino American Student Association
- Anakbayan New Jersey
- LAYA – Migrant Youth for Change & Action – Daly City, CA
- Carson High School – Maharlika
- Philippine American League – New York
- Kapatiran – University of California Santa Barbara
- Anakbayan Inland Empire
- Westmoor High School Filipino Barkada – Daly City, CA
- Garfield High School Pilipinx Student Association – Seattle, WA
- Anakbayan Seattle
- Diwang Kabataan – Union City, CA
- League of Filipino Students – San Francisco State University
- Anakbayan New York
- Anakbayan Los Angeles
- Filipinos Reaching for Empowerment & Education Program (FREE) – Filipino Migrant Center – Long Beach, CA
- Pagsikapan Club – California State University Dominguez Hills
The national assembly collectively reviewed the constitution and three-year plan of Kabataan Alliance, which focused on educating, uniting, and acting upon issues in the U.S. affecting Filipinos, such as education, immigrant and workers’ rights, and solidarity outside the Filipino community. Participants had the opportunity to break out into caucuses based on geographic region, where they deliberated on any amendments to the founding documents, as well as any resolutions they wanted the alliance to take up. After a healthy discussion among the assembly, the alliance formally approved its constitution and three-year plan, adopting several resolutions proposed by the body.
The body went on to affirm the National Executive Board of the alliance: Edmund Nabua (Chicago, IL) as Education Director; Jewelle Dela Cruz (Los Angeles, CA) as Finance Director; Patrick Racela (San Francisco, CA) as Internal Vice President; Chrissi Fabro (New York City, NY) as External Vice President; and Kenneth Crebillo (Portland, OR) as President. Crebillo called on all Filipino youth to continue uniting 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.”
Participants gathered for a final group photo holding two signs reflecting resolutions passed earlier that day: “Defend DACA! Legalization for all!” and “Stop the killings! Save our schools! End Martial Law [in the Philippines]!” A unity clap thundered inside the auditorium as Racela closed the conference weekend with an “isang bagsak” (one down) in honor of the Filipino farmworker movement of the 1960s.
In the coming months, Kabataan Alliance will be working to strengthen and expand the alliance in line with its three-year plan. This includes: developing educational curricula for high school students on Filipino studies, language, and trainings on how to build organizations; contributing to relief missions to hurricane-affected areas in the South led by NAFCON; and campaigning to end human rights violations in the Philippines. Organizations interested in continuing to make history by joining the alliance can visit kabataanalliance.org/join for more information.