On the weekend of February 8-10, 2019, Northern Illinois University sponsored People’s Organizing Weekend Empowerment Retreat (POWER), a three-day student retreat focused on community organizing.
- State Representative Celina Villanueva, former organizer with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
- Jessie Fuentes of the Puerto Rico Cultural Center and Puerto Rican Agenda
- Prof. David Stovall, UIC African American Studies
- NIU alum Maria Torres, community organizer, formerly with PASO
- NIU alum, Mason Astill, Change Corps
The purpose of POWER is to empower student activists, who have previous experience planning and/or participating in activities centered on the tenets of social justice, to enhance their tool kits for the purpose of community organizing. Our goal is for student activists to strategically and effectively create spaces for intentional and culturally-specific planning focused on coalition building while allowing participants to work as allies and collaborators.
POWER was developed utilizing many sources, one of which is the Grassroots Organizing Weekend, sponsored by the United States Student Association. Upon examining this stellar example, our Office of Academic Diversity, Equity and Inclusion implored us to create our own experience. In January 2017, we held our own community-organizing weekend called, Community Organizing Retreat Experience (CORE). Students who attended the retreat reported that it impacted their activism and certainly helped in solidifying coalitions that were necessary to support particular groups of marginalized students that felt a heightened sense of trauma and of being targeted. The schedule is our best attempt at offering student activists the tools they need for community organizing.