Kayla Williams for RFC_no edit no sound

August 15, 2023

Video Transcript

Speaker: Kayla Williams, Co-Founder, COO

What inspired you to form this organization?

Kayla Williams, Co-Founder, COO: I would say that I was driven to co-create rose from concrete and and motivated to continue in the struggle daily by love. I love myself, I love my community. I love my people. And it means that I feel uncomfortable sitting by while we are treating, treated unjustly while we are um you know, denied access to resources and services that, you know, exist in abundance. I am, you know, frustrated and angered by the violence that we're subjected to emotionally, physically, structurally. I, yeah, I just really love us and at rustle concrete, we don't believe that when you or we believe that when you love someone, your actions need to align with that. And so, yeah, I do this because I love me. I love we. And it's just what can I do to back that up?

Kayla Williams, Co-Founder, COO: I would say I was inspired to co-create Rose from Concrete and, and inspired to continue in the Struggle daily by love. We at Rose from Concrete have grown to understand love as the will to extend yourself for either your own or another person's growth. Thank you, bell hooks. And we've got examples of love and what it looks like in action, right? Because we believe that love is action, it's not just words or feelings. And so, I say that I love myself, I love my community. I love my people. And I'm frustrated by the conditions that we are often expected to live in, in complacency. But how could I be complacent? How could I not be, you know, angered, fearful, upset by, you know, the scarcity, the violence that we're, you know, expected to live under. So, yeah, I'm motivated by love to play my role in creating communities or co-creating a world that reflects the needs and desires of my community.

Where did the name “Rose from Concrete” come from and how is that reflected in the work you all do?

Kayla Williams, Co-Founder, COO: So Tupac Shakur actually wrote a poem, the rose that grew from concrete and I'm gonna read it very quickly. It's, did you hear about the rose that grew from a crack in the concrete? Proving Nature's law is wrong. It learned to walk without having feet funny, it seems, but by keeping its dreams, it learned to breathe fresh air. Long live the rose that grew from concrete when no one else ever cared. I think this really embodies what we mean, what we believe, what we feel when we say wrote some concrete, essentially that I think we're told that certain futures are impossible, right? We can't live in a world where we all have our basic needs met where we have conditions to not only survive but thrive and prosper. especially coming in conditions that metaphorically might be concrete, right? That might have, you know, limited watering, limited care. We believe that love is a force that can um through it all. Despite the concrete, grow roses, create futures that we're told are impossible. Ones of life and um you know, nourishment and fruit. So, yeah, we believe um that we can do the impossible collectively. and through love at Rose from Concrete.

How did you all find each other and the support/allies you needed to get the organization up and running?

Kayla Williams, Co-Founder, COO: I would say um that the core relationships and even the I think extended network is mostly made through organic relationships. Honestly. Shanniah is one of my best friends from middle school. Osa we met in high school doing similar work actually. Latoya and I started a mentorship program as high schoolers that Osa joined in our second summer. Shaquille's my brother, of course. So I think we like naturally talk about the challenges that we as a people face, we talk about our frustrations. Then we come together and say, what do we want to do about that? Based off our skills, our resources, our talents. What do we want to contribute? And yeah, when we um share these messages, you know, with our broader networks, we often have people that agree and want to join in those conversations too. So I would say it's most of it is like, you know, is organic connection building.

What are some common challenges students face? How has your mentorship program helped ease those challenges?

Kayla Williams, Co-Founder, COO: I would say that students face very a multifaceted set of challenges. I think I kind of think of them or characterize them in three ways. First, I think there are material and basic slash physiological needs, right? We live in a society that allows scarcity to exist in abundance, which means that families deal with things like poverty, housing insecurity, food inaccess. and then of course they're dealing with I think the attack on education that we're seeing but that has been going on for, you know, frankly forever, right? Are we ever really learning the truth? I think an empowering truth in our schools that's up for debate. And then I think there is the socio emotional you know, challenges that come with being a young person, feeling powerless in a society that is telling you what you should look like, what you should be like. and constantly reminding you how you, you know, pale in comparison to that. So, yeah, the youth are for sure our strongest soldiers, sadly.

Outside of mentorship, what other resources does RFC offer students?

Kayla Williams, Co-Founder, COO: I would say that we aim to respond to the three buckets of needs that we identified. So material needs, we aim to address through our mutual aid efforts. So aiming to have resources and funds pulled together so that if you know, emergent needs do arise for youth that we are able to offer them, you know, tangible support or connect them to someone who can do that. Because once again, how can you prioritize the academic or the emotional if you know, you have more dire needs in front of you. We also offer um you know, like academic training and curriculum. So tutoring. Shaquille recently started a robotics program, you know, like to give tangible academic skills and support. And then finally, we aim at the socio-emotional through our curricula on love and through our mentorship program.

With the unfortunate rise in violence in schools, how do you reassure/affirm students in times of anxiety or uncertainty?

Kayla Williams, Co-Founder, COO: I think that we aim to reaffirm students by letting them know and not only in response to you know, school violence, but I think challenges in the world at large, we aim to let them know that you are not alone in this, that these, that you're not crazy and that you're not alone. I think that that is one of the most powerful tools of those aiming to maintain the status quo of convincing folks that we are alone in what we're experiencing and feeling. instead of letting people know that what you are experiencing is 9 times out of 10, a reflection of a history and a connection of systems, a network of systems that are operating in a specific way. So letting folks know, for instance that in, in an issue of gun violence that this is something that is not out of nowhere, it's not um a preordained thing. It's not, you know, it's a result of systems and that sort of thing. And I, I hope that that is where folks can begin to find power by knowing that these are man made um system created you know, conditions that we're seeing. And so there are things we can do about it.

What starting points or action steps would you give parents, students, and others looking to get more involved in their community?

Kayla Williams, Co-Founder, COO: I would definitely recommend that people just start to have conversations, I think, like I said before, one of the most powerful tools of opposition is to convince folks that they are alone, that you are an individual, individual against capitalism, you are an individual against white supremacy, you are an individual against misogyny. And so you feel like in response to that, I need to, you know, pick, pick myself up by the bootstraps instead of coming together as a collective, right? As a team, as a group, um you know, as is done, you know, across sectors, right? Usually creating progress in the direction that we don't want. People aren't doing that as individuals, they're doing that. You know, with the help of decades of systems and policies and groups and people and you know, so I think talk to people around you and recognize that you're not alone in your beliefs and your desires for what you want to see in the world. And once you start to realize, wait, you want the world to look like this, you want to look like this too. You do too. Why doesn't it right. Collectively we have power, we have voting power, we have spending power, we have political power. So, you know, why doesn't the world look how we want it to look?

For those who may be unable to provide mentorship to students, how else can they get involved?

Kayla Williams, Co-Founder, COO: Folks can support funds. Like I said before, we want to be able to respond to immediate needs, physiological needs, basic needs through resources and funds that we pull together. So folks can contribute to that. And I think we need support as well as an organization, right? Marketing, support, communications, volunteering, you know, media, really, anything and everything we could really support on. And I would say, yeah, it's a mutual aid organization. So um we aim to bring our time, our resources, our efforts, our knowledge together and to collectively drive change with that. So you can fit in that wherever, you know, feels right to you. But I would also say that you can do things in your own community too, closer to you, with your people, your family, your friends, your, you know, I think that it's a larger vision that we're working together for. that has, I think space in your city, in your home. It doesn't have to be in Brooklyn where we are though. That would be nice.

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