"There is room for everyone in movement towards social justice. We need everyone on board." says Tasha Henderson, Alumna of the 7 month leadership program for youth committed to social and environmental justice who want to make social change their life’s work, "Next Up".
“People in positions of power need to start listening to what the community values and give them space to be heard.”
Tasha spent much of her ‘20’s working on the front-lines with vulnerable populations such as at-risk and Indigenous youth. It was while participating in the Canadian Roots Exchange program she met an alumna who recommended she enroll in NextUp. After living outside of BC, when she was accepted at UBC to do her Masters in Indigenous Community Planning, she applied to the program as an opportunity to reconnect with the activist scene in Vancouver and to step back professionally to see her work through a larger scope.
At first, Tasha didn’t see herself as an activist. However, she learned there are many forms and roles of activism. Being part of a larger community working together to make change was a very empowering lesson.
When she met her fellow co-horts, she said, “Wow, they got my name wrong. I don’t belong here. The caliber of youth was mind boggling”. She continues, “I felt that I really hadn’t done that much.” She soon realized that everyone felt a certain level of intimidation by each other. These feelings were soon overcome as they recognized that the work in social and economic justice is so broad there is room for everyone. The co-horts ranged from a first-year Engineering student to a PhD cancer researcher to a woman working internationally on climate justice. Learning from each other and the invited guests was a humbling experience. She learned to not be afraid to ask the wrong questions or to accidentally say the wrong thing. What is more important is to show up and get involved; others will help you learn the rest.
For Tasha, the program helped her to see the bridges between movements and issues. She says, “Too often in our work, we work in silos and operate with a tunnel-vision. There is always an urgency in our work with a sense we are competing for resources, space and money. And working with non-profits often means constant roadblocks and setbacks. It was uplifting and inspiring to be reminded that there is a community at work and we all have our role to play in it."
Tasha is finishing her Masters and taking the rest of the summer off to spend time with her 10 month old son. She Co-Chairs the Board for Check Your Head , a youth-driven organization that educates and activates young people to take action for social, economic and environmental justice. She is excited to see what new opportunities might come of her new NextUp network and the confidence she gained through the program this Fall.
I f you are or know of anyone between 18-31 who is on a continuum of their activist career who is looking for direction, exploring options, and wanting to be part of a broader community, visit www.nextup.ca for more information or email Tasha.