In April 2017, MEChA de University of Washington hosted the 24th Annual MEChA National Conference at Seattle Central College. Over 600 students, youth, and community members gathered to learn, heal and organize. The theme of the conference this year was “Existence is Resistance: Our Intersecting Movements ‘There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives’ -Audre Lorde”. The conference included four workshop sessions, two gender identity and sexuality caucuses, a direct action and much more.
This year, MEChA worked in collaboration with Youth Undoing Institutional Racism (YUIR), a multiracial, intergenerational community organizing group, to organize the direct action and to support their work against the proposed new youth jail. The direct action was an educational community gathering consisting of various work stations aimed to educate folks on the prison industrial complex and the proposed new youth jail in Seattle.
During the workshop sessions, almost 40 different workshops were offered to conference participants. The workshops ranged from art related topics such as, “heARTivismo: Art as tool of healing & resistance” to organizing strategies such as, “Indigenous Strategies for Community Liberation”. The workshops served as spaces where attendees were able to learn and gain the skills and knowledge to become better organizers.
To stay true to their intersectional theme, the organizers invited two amazing keynote speakers. Nikkita Oliver is a local community organizer, educator, artist, boxer, the list goes on and on. Oliver touched on the importance of intersectional and solidarity work. She concluded her remarks by sharing one of her many powerful poems. The second speaker was Jennicet Gutierrez, an undocumented trans Latina known for her work within the undocumented LGBTQ community. She rose to national attention after disrupting an event at the White House and demanding our previous president, President Obama, to release all LGBTQ immigrants from detention. Gutierrez shared her story and her experience organizing for and with undocumented immigrants and the LGBTQ community.
The conference concluded with a resolution circle where MEChistAs gathered to decide the location for next year’s conference and have a long and extensive talk about the future of MEChA. After all the votes were counted, it was decided that the national conference next year will take place in Salt Lake City, Utah. Overall, the conference was a huge success. With the help of generous donors, MEChA de UW was able to successfully organize one of the largest national MEChA conferences.