In 2016, I joined Providence Youth Student Movement (PrYSM), a grassroots organization that serves the Southeast Asian community and other communities of color in Providence. At the time, I knew I cared about the injustices that I saw around me, but was never sure what I could actually do about anything. How could one person stop police misconduct or immigration raids, or other attacks on marginalized communities? Why is it that nothing I do ever feels like enough?
In working with PrYSM’s community programs, I started to find answers to those questions. Organizing Circle, PrYSM’s program for Southeast Asian youth organizers, taught me that youth voices should be centered when we talk about police profiling and education equity. After Hourz, PrYSM’s community program for people to build relationships and find community care, gave me a space to decompress when everything felt too difficult, too heavy to hold by myself. And as members of a refugee community that escaped the Khmer Rouge genocide, people at PrYSM continually teach me what it means to be resilient and to heal from trauma.
This past year, PrYSM used community power to radically transform the city of Providence. In June 2017, PrYSM passed the Providence Community Safety Act, a city ordinance that works against various forms of police misconduct towards marginalized communities, and holds the police accountable to the violence they may enact. PrYSM also started Alianza Mobilizando y Organizando Resistencia (AMOR), a Providence community coalition that supports immigrant and refugee communities against law enforcement and state violence. The CSA and AMOR are historic steps towards the world that communities of color hope to see, one where police brutality and immigration enforcement no longer threaten our community members.
PrYSM taught me that instead of wondering what I can do about state violence, I can look to community power for my answers. Community organizers know that when institutions fail to protect communities of color, then we need to rely on each other instead, and look towards community members and grassroots activists for our solutions. Because community members are the ones directly impacted by state violence, they also have the most knowledge to challenge state violence. Community organizations like PrYSM know what liberation looks like, and they continue to work towards a brighter and more just world for all of us.
But PrYSM also requires outside support and donations to make their transformative work possible. As Brown students, we continually benefit from the work of grassroots organizations like PrYSM. If you walk outside on the streets of Providence, you are more protected from police misconduct because of PrYSM’s work with the Community Safety Act and the Community Defense Project. If you’ve participated in the annual Trans March of Resilience in Providence, you’ve seen PrYSM’s tireless commitment to justice for queer and trans people of color.
And if you’re tired of reading news about the terrible things happening in the world, and you want to do something about it, you can start by supporting PrYSM’s work. This Friday, December 9th, PrYSM is holding their 16th anniversary fundraiser dinner, featuring their annual awards ceremony and a keynote speech by nationally recognized activist Chhaya Chhoum. Donate here to PrYSM’s 16th anniversary fundraiser, and support the incredible youth and community members who continue to make Providence safer for communities of color — and spread the word!