YLGW Class of 2018 alum Bijou Barry recently shared her Youth Leadership experience during this year's Annual Meeting. Bringing leaders t their feet, Bijou shared insights and wisdom on leadership and her trajectory as a young person creating change today. Enjoy her entire speech below.
"The essence of vision in YLGW is the bridge that amalgamates racial, societal, and cultural gaps, it develops character and community. It is what fueled and ignited a passion within my peers to focus their energy and purpose not on fixing and fighting yesterday, but on building and growing something new right now and for tomorrow. It is this profound concept in YLGW that would embody the culture of, resonate in the conversations in, and develop a community that fosters connectivity through change. YLGW is the bridge where proximity creates passion, and story illuminates truth. It is where one utilizes their privilege and position to combat prejudice and injustice. It is where action is the forefront of vision. It is where a group of 32 students the Visionaries would risk being popular for the sake of being relevant. This was us.
YLGW is the bridge, it’s a platform and a space that conjoins fixed points that were otherwise disconnected, to unite and create a path for accessibility, and the ability to progress and advance. YLGW is where the interconnectivity of humanity exists, it is where ideas, cultures, beliefs, and values are exchanged. It is a place of common ground. YLGW, is a platform of dialogue and debate without fear. It is the intersection of religion, society, culture, and politics. It is the ability to serve others wholeheartedly. To work with the people around you, to invest in the people behind you, and to push people ahead of you. It is long-term, visionary thinking, it is the ability to rise above and be a part of the counter-hegemonic movement for change. It is the emphasis on vision, values, and motivation. It is the ability to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. YLGW entails ensuring that you are sincerely au fait with the realities that hider the growth, development or success of others in your community, in your circles of influence and in your interactions. It is recognizing the power that exits in the expression of one’s character and voice. YLGW is speaking truth to affect and initiate change. YLGW Is the bridge that connected us to our purpose, and it is the bridge that we continue to cultivate and build. YLGW looks like people from every background and every walk of life coming together under a goal, a vision; leadership, change and continuity of generational inclusion, equity and awareness.
Every day that I walked into YLGW I knew that I would be embarking on a new journey, a new endeavor, a new opportunity of exploration and discovery. A journey of development, growth, and solidarity. A journey that created a bridge where community exists, connectivity flourishes and communication engages.
Bijou and her YLGW program facilitator Margarita Rozenfeld ('10)
Through YLGW and this organization, I have learned that you can lead without character but you won't be a leader worth following. I have learned that you don't lead from position, but lead from influence. I have learned that it's not just what we say that counts but also what we do that matters. I have learned you can lead with what you know but you can only produce who you are. I have learned and will continue to learn that as a leader we are supposed to leave this earth better than how we found it by developing a legacy through people and not just a reputation. I have learned that we don’t have to see eye to eye to walk hand in hand.
Through YLGW I have learned how to be a bridge, I have learned not only to create common ground but steady ground. Because Of YLGW I have developed lifelong friendships. I have discovered the vision I have for my life, one of service and it brings me back to a moment we had in YLGW that I shared with Margarita and my fellow peers and it’s a quote that will continue to resonate in the essence of my being and it was “Helping, fixing and serving represent three different ways of seeing life, when you help you see life as weak, when you fix you see life as broken and when you serve you see life as whole. Helping and fixing may be the work of the ego but service the work of the soul.” -Rachel Naomi Remen. Because of YLGW I have begun the journey of starting a non-profit called Living In The Hyphen, because of YLGW I have decided to join an NGO or non-profit organization to aid others beyond the confines of my community. Because of YLGW I have learned to be fierce as I am fearless and unapologetically myself. Because of YLGW I can confidentially stand here and tell you that I know what it means to be a leader of my generation."