How do our grantees advance racial equity and or youth engagement in their programs?
Toward the end of 2018, the Youthprise Research and Evaluation Team conducted grantee interviews to investigate that question. We were purposeful about making the interview process more interactive and comfortable for our grantees, and intentional about selecting grantees that we had not typically highlighted. The Research and Evaluation Team designed an interview template that followed our theory of change, and the themes throughout the interviews were racial equity and youth engagement.
One goal of the interviews was to strengthen our relationships with our grantees and to elevate and share their stories of impact. In 2019, the Team compiled the data and wrote the stories, which will now be highlighted on our website and social media.
The Kalpulli KetzalCoatlicue ("Precious Mother Earth") is a Kalpulli ("learning community") of Indigenous people joined by the desire to learn, share, and live the tradition of Aztec dance. KetzalCoatlicue pursues this spiritual, mental, and physical vocation with music from the sacred drum, conch shells, seeds, and other instruments gifted by the natural environment. A majority of the members are youth, but participating members range from toddlers to elders. KetzalCoatlicue’s cultural learning center is located in South Minneapolis.
Meet Jose Alvillar, who is in a leadership role at Kalpulli KetzalCoatlicue. He started as a drummer, then dancer, and now supports the leadership of Ketzal by writing grants and finding ways to continue to support the community. Jose was born into dance; his father was a chief in Mexico. Jose had the cultural knowledge and descendants but did not get into dancing in Minnesota until he was in college. Susan De Leon’s group sparked Jose’s passion for dance. Jose’s career has been in education for most of his life. The cultural knowledge and pedagogy of how organizations like Kalpulli KetzalCoatlicue build youth up and pass down cultural knowledge to young people is very important to him.
One of the topics Jose highlights in this interview is racial equity. According to Jose, “Racial equity is about liberation and justice.” He explains that it’s about what resources his students have or don’t have, a lack of accountability of teachers, and the pain and suffering that has been endured.
“Racial equity is about liberation and justice.”
-Jose Alvillar, dancer at Kalpulli KetzalCoatlicue
Meet Michelle, who started dancing when she was nine years old. Michelle was invited by Susana De Leon to join the group along with her siblings. Michelle says that, “Kalpulli KetzalCoatlicue was started by Jefa (Susana) because of the lack of women leaders in the culture/tradition and the need to teach the younger generation about the value of culture and herstory.” Both individuals have a connection to Kalpulli KetzalCoatlicue. Michelle started as Danzante in 2012 and is now a Sargenta (leader of the group), while Jose now supports the leadership of Ketzal.
This organization excites youth like Michelle because she was a very quiet person at school, but when she started working with Kalpulli KetzalCoatlicue it helped her to open up more within family and then at school. Michelle mentions that “This organization helped me connect better with teachers and other students and helped with public speaking. It has shaped who I am today.” Michelle believes there are resources needed in order to advance racial equity. For instance, she explains the need for, “More ethnic classes in schools and the real history of ancestors from the past.”
Kalpulli KetzalCoatlicue encourages youth to be brave and take charge. Michelle describes youth leadership, “Youth are our future and fighting for a better future while taking on roles to ensure we get what we deserve.” Youth leadership is shown in Kalpulli KetzalCoatlicue work.
“Xylonen” and “Guerreros” are the youth leadership roles that are specifically put in place for youth at the organization.
Both Jose and Michelle are working towards a specific goal and hope to make a difference in the world through their work.
Michelle’s goal and main focus is school. She would like to have more resources and more diversity in schools like St. Thomas. One of the changes she would like to see in her school is people “being open about mental health and creating awareness in the community.”
Jose’s goal at Kalpulli KetzalCoatlicue is to, “Change the system of oppression and give youth more power,” as well as for Kalpulli KetzalCoatlicue to be, “A cultural center similar to Intermedia Arts.”