11 Nov CoCo’s Fellowship Spotlight–11/11/20
Whisper Torres is from East Oakland and currently in her third year at UCLA pursuing a double major in Sociology and Chicano/a/x and Central American Studies. She’s dedicated to working and politicizing our youth.
“I was looking for those spaces to advocate for the community and to reaffirm to youth that they are powerful and worthy and that they deserve to be involved in the things that impact them day-to-day,” Torres said. “CoCo aligns with my values and the experiences that I’ve had growing up. I know a lot of the youth in South LA would benefit from getting involved.”
Outside of work, Torres loves to dance and uses it as a way to let out emotions and heal. In fact, her parents met while dancing.
“They formed their relationship through dancing and I got that love of it through them. It’s a way we would spend time together as a family and it’s this really big act of love and joy and resilience. Even with the simplest dance, I take it seriously and put my heart into it.”
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Marquel Reid has always been very involved in transforming mindsets and finding ways to help his community. As a Servant Leader Intern with the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom School, he spent two years teaching marginalized youth. This experience reaffirmed his inspiration to impact youth that resemble his upbringing.
While obtaining his BA at CSU Dominguez Hills, he participated in student activism and was able to assist in bringing representative programming and resources for black students, uphold leadership positions in student organizations, and participate in challenging the CSU system from increasing tuition in 2018. This experience of leadership led him to obtain a Master’s in African American Studies from Georgia State University in Atlanta, Georgia. Of all the books he’s read, one stands above them all.
“One of the most impactful books that’s inspired so much of my work and educational pursuits is the autobiography of Malcolm X and reading about his self-made transformation. For me in particular, I related to him coming from a single parent household. I was just 18 when my mom had me and the expectations for my success were low. That fuels me. Reading his story about how he educated himself and became the man he was makes him a key role model of mine.”
As the graduate advisor for the African American Male Initiative (AAMI), he was able to help establish a culture and retain the first full program cohort since 2017. After graduating, he returned home to continue restorative justice work and transforming systems for South LA youth. Now, he is currently the youth organizing coordinator for LA Brotherhood Crusade and is excited to continue fighting the good fight for South LA youth.
“While I already had some organizing experience before this fellowship, this has been a really amazing experience to sharpen my skills and toolkit and re-emphasize the curriculum and verbage I know. It only increases my motivation to help out and advocate for our youth in South LA.”
Born in Inglewood but raised in South Central LA, Ryan Bell began his work within non-profit and social justice reform by way of the South Central Youth Empowered thru Action (SCYEA) program through Community Coalition.
“It’s like a full circle moment. Since my time as a youth with CoCo, I’ve been able to teach through Freedom Schools in different summers. This is my first time really diving into the organizing side and I look at it as a culminating moment.”
Throughout his matriculation, he has been able to use his experiences teaching, organizing and background in Sociology to assess injustices affecting Black and Brown communities. One of his favorite books, which grounds this moment for him, is the Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.
“It’s about making sure we’re being present and aware of the ever-changing days. It serves as an inspiration, especially during this time of Covid and the fellowship. I wake up everyday and say I’ve been placed on this earth for a higher purpose and that’s impacting students and uplifting our youth.”
Nyereath Nhial comes from a family who immigrated to the states as refugees from South Sudan and upon resettlement, established roots in San Diego. As a result of the resounding support that her family received from local charities and community organizations, Nyereath recognized the importance of service above self and the need for remaining committed to a community that has nurtured us thus far.
“When we see each other as humans, we can take our work deeper and engage in different ways. People too often see themselves only as individuals, not as part of a larger community. White supremacy wins when we fail to see each other as humans and emotional beings.”
One of the biggest issues that drew her attention was the prevalence of mental health resources that were disproportionately impacting Black & Brown students. As a recent graduate from UC Santa Cruz where she double majored in Critical Race & Ethnic Studies and Sociology, Nyereath began to understand the history behind some of the systemic issues our communities continue to face today.
“Something I’m so proud of is the research project that I was able to do during college. I was able to study how history is told in Sudan. The narrative of males is what dominates the entire culture. A lot of women had different experiences that got shadowed over and I was able to interview so many amazing women – including my mom and sister – about the experiences in war refugee camps and what happened from different perspectives instead of the male-centered narrative. It’s really important to elevate those narratives.”
With this fellowship, Nyereath has enjoyed learning more about the history of organizing and mobilizing those of us who are made structurally vulnerable. She’s also appreciated the opportunity to learn from South LA youth and their experiences.”