Youth Activism Celebrated at Watertown Citizens Annual Meeting

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Abby Yanow

A panel of youth activists speak at the Watertown Citizens for Peace, Justice and the Environment annual meeting. Pictured from left to right, Ari Stern, Caitlin Forbes, Kimia Tabatabaei, Brenton Stoddart, moderator Tod Gross, Yara Akkeh, Alex Thuene, and Shivani Sharma.

The following piece was submitted by Deborah Peterson and Sue-Ellen Hershman-Tcherepnin of Watertown Citizens for Peace Justice and the Environment:

Now in its 39th year, Watertown Citizens for Peace Justice and the Environment continues to lead and inspire community activism. On Sunday June 3, nearly 70 members filled Fellowship Hall at Belmont Watertown Methodist Church to enjoy potluck supper and hear a panel of young activists ranging from middle schoolers to post graduates.

The fresh voices of Alex Thuene, Shivani Sharma, Kimia Tabatabaei, Yara Akkeh, Brenton Stoddart, Caitlin Forbes and Ari Stern were heard loud and clear as moderator Tod Gross probed deeply into their motivations and accomplishments.  The breadth of the issues on which these young panelists are working includes refugee crises, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, gun violence, racial justice and

environmental protection – mirroring many of the activities in which Watertown Citizens has been active for nearly four decades.

Each member of the panel spoke eloquently about their inspiration. Privilege and oppression are not abstract concepts for them; rather, these are real, operational terms. Some told of personal journeys growing up, in which they witnessed brutal conditions encountered by others less fortunate. They credit their families with values they learned, including being caring, accountable, informed, patient, and not afraid to stand up for oneself.

While reaching high, they have also learned to count small victories along the way. One panelist sighted, with wisdom beyond her years, that even when victories are elusive, just surviving repeated losses can in itself represent a kind of victory.
On the subject of role models, there were clear appreciations of parents and siblings for helping them learn the value of finding common ground and respecting other points of view. Also mentioned were local adult mentors, as well as heroes like Martin Luther King and Florynce Rae “Flo” Kennedy (1916 – 2000), an inspiring African American lawyer, feminist, civil rights advocate, lecturer and activist.

Abby Yanow

A panel of youth activists speak at the Watertown Citizens for Peace, Justice and the Environment annual meeting. Pictured from left to right, Ari Stern, Caitlin Forbes, Kimia Tabatabaei, Brenton Stoddart, moderator Tod Gross, Yara Akkeh, Alex Thuene, and Shivani Sharma.


Pam Phillips

Don Munson and potluck greeter Lisa Kane at the Watertown Citizens annual meeting.

Asked to describe the qualities in themselves that are important to their successful organizing, the audience heard “Being stubborn,” yet as the same time, “Being flexible”; “Being open- minded”; and “Not being afraid of attacks on your beliefs.” Clearly these young people already have the resiliency and resourcefulness necessary to fulfill their goal of making the world a better place.

The evening was acknowledged by many attendees to be one of the best Annual Meetings in memory, which bodes well for an exciting year for the organization. The year is already filled with meetings and activities planned by members at monthly meetings, as well as at meetings of the five current working groups: Friends of Bees, Refugee Support, Watertown for Black Lives, Watertown Faces Climate Change, and Life-Friendly Gardens. New members are always welcome. For more information, or to get involved, go to www.WatertownCitizens.org or email watertowncitizens@gmail.com

One thought on “Youth Activism Celebrated at Watertown Citizens Annual Meeting

  1. Congratulations and thanks to Watertown Citizens for Peace Justice and the Environment for presenting the vibrant voices of these outstanding young women and men. Blessed are we in having their energy and vision in our community. A real cause for celebration!

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