SAYA Youth Attend Town Hall Discussion

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BY ANJALI, GRADE 11

Like most youths at SAYA, I was excited for the town hall organized by Chaaya, as it was a trip, but I was unsure of what it would be like. I knew that it would focus on recent events, specifically the election, and how those events impacted the immigrant community. I expected it to be a relatively small gathering in which things I have heard before would be repeated. However, I was surprised by the amount of people who attended and learned quite a lot about the effects of the election and how, as an ordinary member of the community, I could help out.

Comptroller Stringer, Senator Jose Peralta, and four panelists discussed the fear and confusion resulting from the election, specifically regarding the 31% increase in hate crime. Comptroller Stringer and Senator Peralta discussed the need to create a firewall for what we are willing to accept from our leaders, NYC’s status as a sanctuary city, and the importance of immigrants to the community. The panelists discussed immigrants’ rights, the legal steps an immigrant should take in response to the election, and how an immigrant should respond to an ICE agent. In addition, a panelist discussed how to help anyone who is being verbally harassed or targeted. I found this to be the most useful as it allows everyone, including youths, to not be just be bystanders.

The most moving part of the town hall, however, was when attendees of the event spoke about their own fears and experiences. I was struck by how much the election and its aftermath affects their lives. I realized that as a young female of colour, it affects me as well. In my mind, this strengthened the importance of community leaders and reiterated the overall message of working as a community to see positive changes in the world in which we live. I am grateful for the organizations that hosted the town hall and the opportunity to go to it through SAYA.