Every year, the Feminist Campus spends months planning the National Young Feminist Leadership Conference (or NYFLC, as we like to say) right outside of Washington, D.C., where hundreds of young feminists gather together during a weekend in March to learn, connect, and grow with one another. The campus team had such a great time at this year’s conference, and now that we’ve had a couple of weeks to sit back, take a breath, and reflect on our weekend at #NYFLC18, we’d like to share some of our take-away’s with you:
As an intern at the Feminist Majority Foundation, I was eager and excited to finally participate in the National Young Feminist Leadership Conference. Working with the Feminist Campus team gave me a behind-the-scenes look at all of the hard work and effort that went into making this conference as amazing as it was, and I had the opportunity to take photographs throughout the weekend, so I truly got the chance to view the entirety of the conference through a different lens. While I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, I was so blown away by the energy and determination of all of the young feminists in attendance.
My favorite part of the conference had to be the Saturday morning general assembly: hearing from incredible speakers Dr. Willie Parker, Loretta Ross, and Akila Radhakrishnan was a monumental moment. However, the best part of the general assembly was when young feminists Arianna Pittenger (President of Mott Community College’s Feminist League), Mei Ling Ho-Shing (gun violence survivor and activist from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School), and Emily Hagstrom (Co-Founder of the Carolina Feminist Coalition at UNC Chapel Hill) took the stage. Hearing these seasoned feminists speak to the new generation of activists was extremely uplifting and made me not only hopeful for our future, but also honored to be part of this new feminist generation. Watching all the other young attendees feel the same way I did during this moment left me inspired and motivated. I’m thankful for NYFLC 2018 for bringing together all of these young feminist leaders and will forever remember the positive energy felt by everyone in attendance.
A personal takeaway from NYFLC 2018 that encourages me to keep fighting for reproductive health and justice was seeing how interactive the student attendees were with panels, trainings, discussions, and in the action center. Dedicating my days of planning this conference made it all worth it when seeing the students, extremely excited for different panels and the action center; students empowered and encouraged to continue working, which encourages me to keep working. This fight takes time, labor, and a purpose. The high school and college students I met at NYFLC 2018 reminded me of the purpose of this work, and to keep pushing the progressive button until we all are accepted and have the rights we need and deserve.
While NYFLC 2018 was an altogether inspiring and motivational weekend, I felt particularly moved by the White Supremacy, Toxic Masculinity, and Gun Violence: Building Coalitions for the Future panel. In the midst of a gun control movement fueled by young people, it was incredible to actually hear from a student from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Mei-Ling Ho-Shing. Mei-Ling is intelligent, an incredible speaker, and a fearless activist. And — the most personally inspirational part to me — she was speaking to a room full of young feminists who were there to learn from her, and other leaders, about what they can do to get involved. To me, that’s what the National Young Feminist Leadership Conference is about: giving young feminists the space to learn and discuss ways that they can move to action. This panel, and NYFLC 2018 as a whole, served as a powerful reminder that young feminists are energized and determined to make a difference.
NYFLC 2018 was the fifth National Young Feminist Leadership Conference that I’ve attended – and my first NYFLC as an organizer. Seeing things from the other side of the conference was exciting (and overwhelming!) and I was stoked to share my experiences and knowledge of previous NYFLC’s to create a powerful and meaningful conference this year. As always, the Southern Regional caucus was one of my favorite sessions – I love bonding with my fellow Southern feminists, getting to catch up with my old Feminist Collective group, and helping to facilitate connections among feminist campus groups in the South. However, this year, I really enjoyed moderating the Young, Rad, Feminist and HERE: Student Activist Strategies panel, where student activists discussed their work on campus organizing, event planning, educating, mobilizing, and empowering. The advice, tips, and stories that were shared in this space were incredibly impactful and inspirational – the activism that students are doing on campuses across the country is so amazing, and I am so lucky to be in a role where I get to uplift this work. (And you could tell the room was equally excited about the work of these young activists based on the multiple rounds of applause coming from the room!)
Every student I met had so much to share about the projects and campaigns they have done or want to do on their campuses, and NYFLC 2018 felt like a collaborative process because of it. We all learned from each other in panels, trainings, and discussions. In organizing, we always talk about recognizing the knowledge in the room. In our rooms, the knowledge was everywhere. In our Launching a Group panel, students showed up with questions to troubleshoot, and our panelists did a great job responding. Additionally, other students in the room offered examples and solution ideas to each other. Our space became a discussion room, where folks began to share about their campuses: the ups, downs, and everything in between. We came out of the room with action ideas, contacts, and resources. Young people need and want spaces to learn from each other, and I’m proud to say that the National Young Feminist Leadership Conference offers that space.
As a South Asian woman of color, I think a lot about duality. Of navigating an identity that is both marginalized and extremely privileged. Of pushing back on the myth of the model minority, telling stories outside of the traditional immigrant experience, and working with my community to be better solidarity workers and political agents of change.
This year, for the first time ever, NYFLC offered an identity caucus for Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) feminists. We discussed white supremacy, xenophobia, systematic oppression, and the lack of inclusion in political spheres faced by AAPI folks. We examined the challenges we face in having so many different communities often lumped together into one monolithic group. We also talked through the ways our communities need to be held accountable and to improve, addressing the toxic colorism, racism, and Islamophobia we often see perpetuated. Finally, in moving forward, we strategized how to better show up in solidarity and coalition with other communities of color to work towards collective liberation.
This was one of the first spaces for all AAPI feminists I have ever been a part of. I am fiercely proud to be an AAPI woman, a first-generation child of immigrants, and a woman of color. I am prouder when my voice is joined, amplified, and pushed within community spaces where I can connect with other women and femmes who resonate with my experiences. In coming together, I had the opportunity to feel seen, heard, and represented within the feminist movement, and it was indescribably powerful.
My favorite part of this year’s conference was the Western Regional caucus and getting to meet all of the West Coast folks who trekked all the way across the country for NYFLC 2018. There were not a ton of us – it’s not particularly cheap to fly 3,000 miles – but each and every student I met was excited and ready to speak up. This was very inspiring to me: from Estrella Mountain in Avondale, Arizona, to Pacific in Forest Grove, Oregon, and of course, to our neighbors in San Marcos, California, all the wonderful feminists of the West showed tremendous compassion and camaraderie with our little caucus. We talked about our goals, both in the short term for their clubs and in the long term for our lives; about the ways each of us found feminism and activism; and about the strength we get from one another. I cannot wait to get to know all of them better!