Hafizah reports from the International Congress of Youth Voices
I had the most incredible three days recently in San Francisco at the International Congress of Youth Voices.
I feel privileged to have met 150 delegates from all over the world, as well as such inspirational speakers and the amazing organisers who put the event together.
On the second day the delegates and speakers met at the San Francisco Public Library. There the other delegates and I listened to talks from a range of different speakers including; Ev Williams, Rabih Alamenddine, Brian Yorkey, Bob Bland, Tabitha St. Bernard-Jacobs, Alia Malek, John Prendergast, Inder Comar and many more.
They spoke about their careers and also how they have impacted the global community in which we live in. I loved listening to how such strong women (Bob Bland and Tabitha St.Bernard Jacobs) led the Women’s March in America and spoke to the youth about how to start a movement.
As a young female, I felt empowered and was in awe to hear the success of how numbers of people came together on January 21st 2017 to protest and bring together those of all genders, ages, races, cultures, political affiliations, disabilities and backgrounds. I also enjoyed the talk with Brian Yorkey and how he used his scripts in Broadway Theatre to emphasise to power of story telling. He spoke about how he focuses on expanding empathy towards issues (such as mental health) which are looked down on in society, through the plays that he writes.
Between the talks the delegates had breakout sessions where we had the chance for smaller conversations and to ask questions to the speakers. One of the break out sessions I went to was with Alia Malek who is a journalist and former civil rights lawyer. In this session one of the delegates asked ‘where is home for you?’ and this stood out in my mind as I wanted to know how Malek defined this concept of identity and where she felt she belonged. She said ‘home isn’t just in any one place’ and that she will always be a Syrian as well as an American simply because she can. As I struggle a lot with my identity, after hearing this I thought I am not defined by where I am from and I should take every culture that I experience along with me as it has shaped who I am.
After some other expressive and passionate talks performed by delegates and speakers, we headed to the main event at the Nourse Theatre where we met Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. She spoke about how as youth we have the capability to do so much and we mustn’t stop till we achieve what we aim to do. She also talked about how because she is from Nigeria, she used to try to cover her accent and manners to match the people she met in America to fit in. She later realised she didn’t have to change who she was to fit in because either way people had to accept her for who she was and if they didn’t it was their loss.
Then we had the International Congress of Youth Voices public event, where the delegates delivered their speeches to the audience and we stood on the stage cheering them on.
As I listened to the delegates speak I realised how we are the generation of change and as a collective we can work towards creating a world free of all the chains we feel we are held captive in. I also considered myself lucky to have finally found a platform where I can use my voice for the greater good.