CORE stands for Community Organizing & Resistance Education and serves as RYTF’s primary education vehicle. CORE is an 8-week social justice course that teaches the basics of movement building and advocacy. Topics include the Civil Rights Movement, Rockaway history, local government and civics, and campaign development. CORE is a prerequisite for membership in the Rockaway Advocacy Program. General members are encouraged to enroll in the course to learn more about community organizing and how to become more involved in local advocacy issues.
The Rockaway Advocacy Program, or RAP, provides youth in Rockaway with a more structured way to be involved in civic engagement. This program builds on the work of CORE to provide resources for politically conscious youth to connect with their communities, engage their local government, and become dedicated leaders and active organizers. In weekly meetings, youth have the opportunity to pursue targeted leadership development and learn concrete skills like outreach, networking, and public speaking. Through RAP, organizers create and lead campaigns to advocate for the issues that are important to the communities they represent.
The Rockaway Advocate magazine is a citizen journalism project of the Rockaway Youth Task Force that allows RYTF membership the opportunity to engage seriously with the media. Often, the stories of youth and communities of color are marginalized or ignored in mainstream media. The Rockaway Advocate serves as both a platform for our advocacy work as well as pathway for youth of color in Rockaway to take back their own narrative in the media while gaining concrete, transferable skills. The Rockaway Advocate exists in two parts. The first part is the RYTF Blog, which gives RYTF a chance to add to media commentary on current events and related topics as an organization. The second part is the Rockaway Advocate, an online magazine written by RYTF youth with the support of RYTF staff. Both projects serve to give members a platform to dissect and share information in our community.
Visit the Rockaway Advocate website at: RockawayAdvocate.news
Our Urban Farming Program gives RYTF members the opportunity to grow healthy, organic produce for themselves, their families, and their community. Through volunteering on our half-acre Urban Farm, youth gain firsthand knowledge of environmentally-conscious and sustainable urban farming practices and healthy eating habits. Through running our weekly Farm Stand during the summer and fall, RYTF youth learn entrepreneurial skills like customer service, managing inventory, and conducting financial transactions.
Problem: Low Voter Turnout Within the Rockaway Peninsula
Campaign: Far Rock the Vote
Partners/Allies: New York Civic Engagement Table
Goal: Increase Rockaway Voter Turnout
Far Rockaway has some of the lowest voter turnout rates in the entire city. Many residents are absent from the poll due to political cynicism that stems from years of governmental neglect, a general sense of apathy and the belief that their vote doesn’t matter. Our Far Rock the Vote campaign is a powerful non-partisan voter registration, education and mobilization program. This project utilizes highly effective phone banking and door-to-door canvassing techniques by RYTF members to increase civic participation on the Rockaway Peninsula.
Problem: Low-Performance Public Schools
Campaign: Rockaway Equal Education Project
Partners/Allies: Urban Youth Collaborative, Dignity in Schools Campaign
Goal #1: Ending the School-To-Prison Pipeline
The School-to-Prison Pipeline is the system of indirect and direct processes which pushes young people out from the school system and into the juvenile justice and criminal justice systems. In New York City and across the country, we see the School-to-Prison pipeline enacted through the overuse of suspensions, metal detectors, zero tolerance policies that involve the police in minor incidents, school based arrests, referrals to juvenile detention, and incarceration.
Students know that punitive discipline practices do not reduce conflict, fail to get at the root of behavioral problems, do not increase student safety, and disproportionately affect students of color, LGBTQ students, immigrant students, and students with special needs. To begin to keep students in the classroom and out of the courts, we are calling for:
Goal # 2: Investing In Our Schools
RYTF successfully advocated for the introduction of Participatory Budgeting to the 31st Councilman District, which covers portions of the Far Rockaway Peninsula. Participatory Budgeting allows residents to decide how to over $1 million dollars of taxpayer money. Community members exchange ideas, work together to turn ideas into project proposals, and vote to decide what projects get funded. RYTF has fought to secure over $800,000 in capital improvements to Rockaway high schools through Participatory Budgeting.
Problem: Discriminatory Policing Practices that Target Youth and Young Adults of Color
Campaign: Police Accountability Project
Allies/Partners: 101st Precinct Community/ Council, Communities United for Police Reform
Goal #1: Increase Police Accountability and Transparency
Police accountability involves holding both law enforcement agencies and individual police officers responsible for effectively protecting our communities. We are fighting for reforms that will promote community safety while ensuring that the NYPD protects and serves our communities.
Goal #2: Improve Community and Police Relations
RYTF organizers have the ability to respond rapidly – through direct action and media commentary – to police actions that affect youth and young adults within the Rockaway community. At the same time, we work on long-term solutions that address the culture of policing and the policies that enforce it.
Problem: Rockaway is a Federally Labeled Food Dessert
Campaign: Rockaway Food Justice Project
Partners/Allies: Youth Food Justice Network, GrowNYC, East Rockaway Growing Coalition, Lunch4Learning
Goal # 1: Increase Healthy Food Access in Rockaway
Food Justice is the act of communities exercising their right to grow, sell, and eat healthy food. Healthy food is fresh, nutritious, affordable, culturally appropriate, and grown locally with care for the well being of the land, workers, and animals. People practicing food justice leads to a strong local food system, self-reliant communities, and a healthy environment.
RYTF’s transformative Food Justice work began as a response to the widespread damage to the Rockaway peninsula after Superstorm Sandy, resulting in the shuttering of many small stores and supermarkets and exacerbating Rockaway’s status as a federally-labeled food desert. Lack of healthy food options in the wake of this destruction – particularly for lower income families and individuals in the community – prompted RYTF members to develop sustainable solutions for access to locally grown, low-cost fresh produce that could be easily available to residents. The result was the successful launching of a youth-led Farm Stand and the building of one of the largest youth-run Urban Farms in NYC on an empty half-acre lot secured through the NYC Parks Department.
The Rockaway Youth Task Force continues to grow and sustain one of the cities largest youth led Urban Farm & Community Garden. RYTF’s staff is committed to securing resources to ensure that the space will be maintained and is able to provide healthy food to the community in addition to being a space for food justice education.
Goal # 2: Job Training & Economic Development.
The RYTF Urban Farm and Community Garden provides a space for residents to grow their own food. RYTF provides training to members to educate the community on growing produce. In addition, the Youth Market, a weekly farmers market jointly host with Grow NYC serves to influence the economic development of the Rockaways.