Aslin Perez (left, pictured with Ziquelle Smalls '12) was a participant in SLP '12, an Emerging Leader at The City School from September 2012 to August 2013, and currently serves as a youth staff member with The City School during the school year. She is a senior at Greater Egleston High School and also serves on the leadership team of the Youth Justice and Power Union.
How have you changed because of your first summer in SLP?
I started identifying certain issues within my community - not just race and class, but within households, sexism, heterosexism. How much adultism is going on within our school system. At one point, I thought it didn't matter because I couldn't change anything. But after my school-year in The City School, I felt like I could because we had actions, like the February rally for youth jobs. The most I've changed has actually been acknowledging my anger and finding where it's coming from, finding the root. And thinking about how it affects people when I lash out - when I don't talk about my issues, when I just hold it in. To have someone just listen - not even talk but just listen - it's real.
How have you continued your commitment to social justice beyond SLP?
I joined the Youth Justice and Power Union. I learned about it through the [February] rally, and I got more in depth action-wise. Attending meetings like Youth Against Mass Incarceration, and actually going more in depth with the prison industrial complex, wanting to give seminars myself. And always preaching, I'm always preaching every time I'm talking to someone. And preaching in a way that actually makes sense to them. I can be talking about racism, sexism, but that doesn't mean anything unless I can actually connect it to you.
What are your plans for the future?
I'm finishing up high school this year, and I'm reapplying to the New School in New York and Berkelee. My GPA boosted up so I'm amped! I want to start working on a program that will teach social justice through arts. Then after that, just pursuing music, playing my violin because I love to perform! And then buy mad houses.
If you could have coffee with one social justice activist, who would it be and why?
I would have coffee with Assata Shakur. Just being exiled from the United States, and being shot at, and still living and fighting our fight as activist - it would be amazing to just listen to her, not talk, just listen. Some of the people I know as activists, they talk the talk but they aren't walking the walk, we aren't mentally prepared for that. To have coffee with her and talk and listen - that would be dope. I'd MAKE her coffee!
TCS is beyond just teaching youth for two months and then keeping it moving - youth still come here even if they're not getting paid. For young people to come here just to listen, interact with each other and chill - you don't see this in school. You don't even see this in families! And the idea is that we're becoming a family over time, a new generation.
Profile Created November 2013