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Why youth in East Palo Alto are joining the call for a ceasefire in Gaza

Palestinians inspect the damage following an Israeli airstrike on the El-Remal aera in Gaza City on October 9, 2023. Photo by Naaman Omar (Image via Wikimedia)

Deaths in Gaza have exceeded 28 thousand, prompting growing calls for a ceasefire on humanitarian grounds. Joining that chorus is Youth United for Community Action (YUCA) in East Palo Alto, which advocates on behalf of young people in the community.

Ofelia Bello is the organization’s executive director. She spoke with Peninsula 360’s Manuel Ortiz about YUCA’s work and its stance on the war in Israel.

“We cannot escape what is happening in Gaza,” says Bello, drawing a direct line to her own community here in the Bay Area. “There is a Palestinian community in neighboring Redwood City,” she notes, adding that some of the technology now being used to prosecute the war was developed in nearby Silicon Valley, technology that is also being deployed to track migrants crossing the US-Mexico border.

From images of families buried under rubble to parents mourning over a dead child, the impacts are being felt locally, she says. “It’s affecting people’s mental health, especially young people, and that is something we are seeing consistently.”  

YUCA was formed by a small group of young people of color active in their communities and concerned about social and environmental challenges, according to Bello. Later they launched FIRE Fellowship, a leadership training program for young people of color that includes paid internships in community organizations that work for environmental and social change in the Bay Area.

YUCA will celebrate its 30th anniversary this August.

Bello was among a group of protestors who gathered on the Stanford campus February 12 to press university leadership as it met to discuss its public stance on the conflict in Gaza. She told Ortiz it’s critical to show young people that they do have a voice, and that their opinions are part of what drive decisions in this country.

“For us, the struggles we have here regarding housing justice, environmental justice, are connected to Gaza,” Bello stressed.  


The above article in Peninsula 360 is reprinted with the permission of Ethnic Media Service, a partner of East Palo Alto Today.

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