Last Saturday, DoSomething welcomed over 100 young people to New York City for Boot Camp , a training and networking workshop for young activists.
First-time attendee Milan Taylor appeared on the event’s Youth Panel to discuss his organization, the Rockaway Youth Task Force . The 23-year-old student at John Jay College of Criminal Justice began RYTF as a means to mentoring, volunteerism, and personal advancement for young people in the Rockaway Peninsula of Queens, NY.
Here, Milan discusses the organization and how its role changed in the wake of hurricane Sandy, which devastated his community.
What inspired you to start the RYTF?
I went to a community meeting pertaining to youth violence in the Rockaways, particularly southeast Queens and someone asked, “How do we solve the issue?” and someone else said, “Let’s ask that young man over there.” I asked, “Have you ever asked a young person before?” and they said, “Well, young people don’t come to these meetings.”
So I started an organization to try and get young people involved in civic engagement and political engagement. It’s something really important, especially because of the spike in shootings in southeast Queens. I wanted to impact the gang violence, because I honestly feared for my life.
Tell us how you responded to Hurricane Sandy.
The Rockaway Peninsula was one of the hardest hit areas in the city of New York. Somewhere along the line, we feel that government dropped the ball where goods and services weren’t being distributed. The population that was missed was the elderly and disabled, and if you live in a 19-story apartment building, there’s no way you can leave your apartment for food, water, and other essentials. So we took it upon ourselves to deliver these goods. Now we're hosting a Thanksgiving dinner for those who are disenfranchised.
What is the greatest challenge you've had to overcome?
For my organization, it’s really hard for us to help out people when we don’t have heat or hot water ourselves, but you just have to know what you’re doing is for the greater good of the community and that you’re inspiring other people.