For Serisha Iyar, providing opportunities, access, and mutual aid to BIPOC youth is a long-standing pillar in many racialized communities -- including her own.
As the Founder and Executive Director of Leading in Colour – a community organization that provides racialized youth with the tools, resources and skills to conduct advocacy efforts in their communities, Iyar started Leading in Colour as a result of the “rejection of racialized experiences” that she saw in activist movements firsthand.
Leading in Colour is a space where racialized youth leaders could come together to learn and mobilize, and share knowledge.
“Our goal is to train racialized youth to become activists in and for our communities through peer-to-peer knowledge sharing, in order to demand justice and change for the inequities we are forced to live with,” says Iyar.
Currently, continuing along the thread of empowering BIPOC youth and giving back, Leading in Colour has started a mutual aid fund to provide financial support to racialized youth in need this month.
“Since the pandemic started we've seen a surge of mutual aid funds pop-up for community members to support one another,” says Iyar.
“This concept of mutual aid is something that has been long-standing in racialized communities, including my own. For example, back in South Africa, in my mum's community they had something they called "the lottery" where folks would collectively put in money into a pool and each month one person would be able to take the money for their needs, cycling through the community, every person would get their turn to receive funds.”
The Winter Support Fund is a mutual aid system Leading in Colour has set up to provide financial support to BIPOC youth.
The fund is open to racialized youth aged 29 and under.
“We know that many racialized youth are having difficulty during this pandemic period,” says Iyar.
“Preparing for cold weather, holidays, a new school semester and even rent increases, can make this more challenging on top of the racism and other forms of oppression we experience daily.”
The organization is looking to allies in the community and outside to come together and give back to those who need it.
“Setting up this fund was a way to ask allies to join in solidarity with racialized youth in need by redistributing their wealth and providing some financial support,” says Iyar.
“Money is consistently a barrier for young people and being able to provide a system to receive some relief, when there is so much wealth to be shared, was a small way we could help.”
Leading in Colour was also recently awarded an international grant through the We Are Family Foundation, to do anti-racism work across Canada.
“Leading in Colour's work aims to educate, train and mobilize racialized youth for the betterment of our communities, using whatever relative privilege and access to resources and opportunities we have that our parents and those before them may not have had, in order to bring justice for our peoples,” says Iyar.
“The Winter Support Fund is simply an extension of this. We know that poverty disproportionately affects racialized communities, we know that youth have been suffering financially during this pandemic and we also know that there exists more than enough capital to go around and we want to be able to facilitate that redistribution in order to try and support our communities.”
So far the fund has raised almost $2000, and redistributed it to 32 racialized youth. Iyar says they currently have 152 requests for funding.
To donate to the Winter Support fund, click here.
To learn more about the work of Leading in Colour, check out their website.
About the author: Rumneek is the Editor of 5X Press. She is also a journalist, blogger and podcaster, and founder of her own podcast, RumandWoke which centres on the trials and tribulations of being a woman of colour in the diaspora. She is a recent graduate of The University of British Columbia's Masters of Journalism program, and has previously worked as a writer at Daily Hive Vancouver and CBC Toronto.