Staff of the Month: Diana Diaz-Noriega

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As Youth Organizing Coordinator, Diana Diaz-Noriega works closely with our RYOT (Richmond Youth Organizing Team). Learn more about RYOT and their work here


Name and Title: 

Diana Diaz-Noriega, Youth Organizing Coordinator

How long have you worked at RYSE?

I initially interned at RYSE for 6 months last Summer and Fall under the Youth Organizing department. I went back to school for Winter and Spring to complete my senior capstone, graduated, applied, and got hired at RYSE as the Youth Organizing Coordinator in July of 2017.  

As Youth Organizing Coordinator, what do you do?

I co-create and hold spaces with youth to discuss, critique, analyze, learn, share, heal, organize and mobilize wherever they may be. I work with a team of four RYOT (Richmond Youth Organizing Team) interns, we focus on further developing leadership and organizing skills so they can effectively run youth-led campaigns and advocate for issues they care about. I also run Organizing Club every Wednesday at RYSE, a space for youth to explore political education through different mediums such as art, films, reading, and writing. In this space we touch on topics of identity, gender, sexuality, environmental justice, economic justice, mental health, education justice, and more!

What do you love most about your job?

I love spending time with youth, engaging with one another through different mediums: art, music, dance, writing, storytelling and organizing. I appreciate the energy our youth come into the space with; they re-energize me and constantly remind me of my purpose as an organizer.

You work very closely with our RYOT (Richmond Youth Organizing Team) interns. What can you share about RYOT’s most recent work?

Our RYOT interns are simultaneously on the move taking action and reflecting inside the Casita--were we hold all of our meetings at RYSE. We go from the Casita to: the streets, city council and school board meetings, rallies and marches, events, and we take everything learned back to our homes. RYOT has participated in workshops and discussions regarding and not limited to: Charlotesville, white supremacy, DACA/TPS, Ayotzinapa, along with local, state, and national issues that impact our community. Recently, RYOT joined with Education and Justice interns to advocate for a positive school climate policy in our district. After many meetings and public speaking comments, youth and community members PASSED this resolution! This fall youth also helped registered a total of 240 youth! (32 were eligible and 207 and pre-registered). This has been a fruitful time for our team. We held our first Youth Exchange of the year in November, and welcomed youth from all WCCUSD schools to come and share their stories and experiences with us. In November RYOT interns Avian and Megan, planned and facilitated our Liberation and Decolonization Dinner and uplifted indigenous stories, while incorporating art, videos, and a presentation by local community members which included a screen printing activity. RYOT has worked extremely hard this season and has great ideas for our spring season.

How did you first hear about RYSE and why did you choose to get involved?

I heard about RYSE through a research project for my Youth Movements class. My assignment was to research local youth organizations in my neighborhood and write about the ways youth were mobilizing to challenge and change oppressive systems in their communities. I was inspired, moved, uplifted and grounded in my identity as an organizer after watching all of the RYSE YouTube videos and following their social media platforms. I felt the need to make a connection; told myself this was the community I wanted and needed to organize with moving forward.

If you had to describe RYSE in three words, what would they be and why?

Youth-Centered, Healing, & Transformative

Can you share something that happened in the RYSE community that resonated with you this month?

This month I dedicated my being to actively using my full body to be in solidarity with communities being affected by systems of oppression. I choose to spend my time advocating and organizing beyond my capacity, to use my platform and identity to challenge institutions that criminalize our community. During one of our retreats in LA I was able to do a sit-in beside my undocumented community, who were raising awareness by fasting for three days for a #CleanDreamAct. As an undocumented organizer, it is my duty to use my platforms to work towards the liberation of our immigrant/undocumented community, including #SaveTPS.

I attended a rally in Oakland for #DefendAuntFrances. Aunti Frances, a black panther, organizer, and a strong advocate for her community, is being pushed out from her home in Oakland. I felt connected to her struggle knowing that our community in Richmond is also facing gentrification and displacement. I also attended a Contra Costa County board meeting to advocate for youth who are criminalized and incarcerated, being told to pay fines they cannot afford due to the multiplicity of their intersectional identities. While in the space I used my ability as a bilingual speaker and translated a mother’s story during public comment, and used that platform to make my comments as well. Our community rose up and advocated to put an end to the criminalization of youth and families, and fought for refunds they were entitled to. Community spoke with truth, power, and vulnerability, sharing stories of trauma, impacts, harm, and struggle-all with love and liberation for our people in mind.

This winter break I will continue to organize with and beside my community, and plan to attend city council meetings in Richmond and San Pablo to end brutal conditions for ICE detainees at West County Detention Center. All of our communities are being targeted by institutions, and I promise to use my time, resources, body, and voice to serve our people in the ways they need.

What’s something the other staff and youth members don’t know about you?

I can play the Saxophone!

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