Alex Epstein Applies His Lessons From New Orleans to New York

Question: What has NY2NO accomplished in New York?

Epstein:    Going with the ideas that you know, since we’re combating racism or we’re combating classism in gentrification in any kind of discrimination, depression that exist as much in New York and every other major city in America as it does in New Orleans.  It’s just not quite as obvious to see so it doesn’t really make sense just to bring people to New Orleans do the work and come home and just sit around waiting for the next trip to happen so we have started to organize and do work here.  I guess, we consider ourselves community organizers but our community is high school students.  So, we don’t feel that we’re the ones who necessarily need to be like out there in the streets organizing residents to go to meetings that we hold like NY2NO meetings, that’s not our purpose, our job is to do that in high schools and to student groups or after school programs or churches or whatever and mobilizes as many students as possible to get involve here and then, but we have partnered with a number of organizations to do work within the communities of New York to organize residents and so we’re not reinventing the wheel we’re riding another spoke or you know, whatever you want to, how you want to put that but so we’re working with these different organizations in one major way that we’re doing work here is we started a community service and internship program and so now we do presentations, we speak about the trip where we encourage people to sign up for the trips but we also say that they can sign up and do the exact same stuff here in New York City and you know, at schools or students have to complete community service hours to do an internship, it’s great because we attract the whole bunch of students who may otherwise who never cared to get involve but you know, they need, they have the requirements so they signed up but you know, well, we get people who care all over the place and you know, our job is they come to us and we’re going to start off with a forum where we discuss the history of NY2NO similar to the very first day in New Orleans and discuss our history, what we do, why we’re doing this and then from there the students will be place with one of the seven groups that we worked with and every week they’ll go and do volunteering which should be canvassing neighborhoods, helping to plan protest, making phone calls, whatever that organization needs at any given time.  Then once a month we’ll pull all the students together so that we can have a big debrief type of the thing and everybody can reflect on their experiences with the organizations, how things are going and then we would have workshops on student leadership and talking about the history of students within social movements so that… because a lot of the time I think that we, a students feel demoralize, they feel that we can make a change, the same way we kind of felt at the beginning when a lot of adults kind of said, “Oh this is nice but you’re not really going to go anywhere.”  But you know, the fact that we’ve created this is already inspiration in itself to any other student that we talked to because we have created this with pretty much no help from adults.  So, which is a very nice thing and its inspiring thing to a lot of students and you know the program is slowly starting to develop.  This year is pretty much working on planning seeds in different areas and different schools so that next year it blows up and we just have kids from allover the city, you know, really working together on this program just as much if not more than we send people down to New Orleans.

After seeing an immense parallel with issues of inequality, the organizer started another project in New York.

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Photo credit: Getty Images / Stringer

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