Contributor Tadiwa (@tadiwasibanda) had a conversation with Niusha (@un.think) about her group The Young Fadayeen, activism, and goals for the future.
Tadiwa: What gave you the idea to form a youth activism group?
Niusha: The Young Fadayeen met and started at a Black Lives Matter protest that I organized in Anaheim on July 10th, 2016. When I first organized this protest, I had no idea I could bring so many different people together to stand up for a cause. That made me endlessly happy because as an Iranian immigrant I had never felt so much love and unity in the U.S. ever. I'm sure many people realized that the majority of the people at the protest were teenagers and young adults and that made me immensely happy too because I don't usually meet many people my age who care for the same things I do. After the protest was over, we all talked and became friends and later I decided to make a youth activist group based in OC because a few people and organizations offered to give us a space to meet and host events. Often, people discourage youth from using their childish imagination but I think youth are so powerful! If one is able to use their childish imagination and their knowledge to come up with new ideas to solve problems, they can change the world! It is a great critical thinking skill that adults often discourage the use of, especially in schools. I wanted to bring youth activists together to discuss new ideas because I am tired of history constantly repeating and the leaders of our societies using old tactics over and over again.
What is the meaning of “The Young Fadayeen” and what brought about the decision to name yourselves that?
I think the word "Fadayeen" has a lot of negative connotations in the west but Fadayeen was actually a frequently used name for revolutionary groups for the power of the people in the Middle East. To be exact, the word Fadayee means one who risks his or her life for a cause. I'd describe a Fadayee as a warrior for the people. In Farsi, the "n" is the same thing as an "s" in English; just makes the word plural. I thought that The Young Fadayeen is a perfect name to represent us because we are very young passionate people and I think that we are some of the many warriors for the people.
What are the goals of The Young Fayadeen?
The main goal of The Young Fadayeen is to bring all kinds of teenagers and young adults together to create love and unity while still appreciating diversity. We want to focus on liberation and evolving rather than just following an agenda. Since, we are a relatively new organization, we will be focusing on talking to one another about our struggles, concerns, and anger. We want to focus on first understanding each other so later we can understand problems within our community and how we can work together to solve them. We will be focusing on studying different groups and movements before we take any major actions. We will be focusing on organizing protests, working with other youth groups to spread awareness, changing the system from within and outside, working to educate kids, and creating programs to help our community. For example, I recently started a program called "Zines 4 Kids" in which teenagers and young adults will make zines about different topics for kids to encourage kids to love themselves, love others, appreciate culture, and etc. We will spread the zines all over schools elementary and middle schools in Orange County after we try and get them approved by the different districts. We realize that stereotypes, racist ideas, sexist ideas, islamophobia, transphobia, homophobia, phobia of disabled people, and etc. are things we are socialized into from a youth age and the "Zines 4 Kids" program is to work towards stopping that form toxic socialization.
As an individual, what do you think you bring to the group?
I think I can bring a lot of knowledge. I am total history nerd and know a lot about many different revolutionary groups. I think I can also bring passion, good public speaking skills, good organizing skills, my artistic ability, and love for unity.
If a non-POC wanted to become an ally and help in the struggle against socio-political injustice towards POC, what advice could you give in regards to what they can do?
We actually have a few non POCs in the Young Fadayeen. We really like to focus on Marx's idea that race and ethnicity are nothing about socially constructed ideas made to divide the common people. However, like Marx, we also realize that POC face institutionalized inequality more so than non POCs. The Young Fadayeen is about getting all kinds of people together to fight inequality for the better of all of society as a whole. I think non POCs should focus on listening to POCs; listening to their struggle, their anger, and their concerns. This way they are able to understand and help fight institutionalized inequality in a peaceful manner. As a non POC, you can also share what you learn with other non POCs. Sometimes people listen and understand better that way because you are able to use their frame of reference and their experiences to find a way to make them understand the issues we are talking about.