AYO Next Uppers,
Kamusta! My name is Christopher Clacio. I was born and raised in Winnipeg, MB on treaty 1 land of the Anishinaabe Nation. This is also the home of the Metis Nation. (I would also like to acknowledge that this whole planet is indigenous territory.) One thing to note is that I'm Filipino, but the thing that connects my life with indigenous communities is the concept of Family. I am very active in the North End of Winnipeg with a youth movement called AYO, Aboriginal Youth Opportunities.
The “AYO code is the WAYO way” where we breakdown stereotypes, replace hypocrisy and find institutional solutions by respecting traditional teachings. This is what I do as a Social Norm Entrepreneur, working within the context of Youth Political Activism. Yes, I'm aware that's a mouthful. What that means is that my purpose in life is working with young people to get them more proactively engaged in the political process by leading with the teaching of what AYO calls “absolute integrity,” where what we say matches with what we are actually going to do. In my work, I borrow AYO’s youth engagement strategy called ARROWS or “be Accessible, sharing Resources, building Relationships, creating Opportunities, being Welcoming, and Supporting one another as Family.”
The AYO code of respecting traditional teachings relates to how indigenous knowledge is shared with non-indigenous communities. One of the teachings that I have been honoured to present is the Medicine Wheel that represents the four directions of North, East, South, and West. Just like the four directions, the indigenous people of Canada have gifted me with four gifts. They have given me a home, a community, a village, and most importantly a sense of Family. With the findings of the recent report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission now made public and the legacy of colonization in Canada revealed, I feel like what I am doing is the least I can do to support our city, especially when dealing with racial inclusion.
I am active in many events in and around our city. One of the events I help out with is called Meet Me @ the Bell Tower that has happened every Friday for 4 years in Winnipeg’s North End. The people who attend are called the Bell Tower Family. The second event I help out with is PolitixBS, which is short for “brainstorms,” every Saturday at a local co-op called Neechi Commons. The goal of PolitixBS is to learn more about politics. The third event I help out with is Fearless R2W that happens every Wednesday at 6pm to discuss system literacy. Lastly, an event in the spring & summer that also happens on Wednesday’s is Water Wednesday where people come together to talk about protecting our water.
I also help support 13 Fires Winnipeg which addresses racial Inclusion through dialogue; RedRising Magazine that promotes young people to represent themselves by being their own media; the North End youth council, a coalition of youth serving agencies and groups; the Westend 24/7 safe space, giving youth in the West End of Winnipeg a safe place to go; and Inter-Civics Cafe that takes place weekly at noon to talk with different city officials. I am also an avid helper at the Circle of Life Thunderbird House volunteer program called “Thunder Hearts”. This is only part of my story!
In 2014, I tried running as a Mayoral candidate in the municipal election but in the end decided to run in my local school division, Ward 2 of 7 oaks. I was one of the youngest candidates in the whole city and it was a good experience, I received 1030 votes! I ran on a platform that had 4 pillars: political engagement, bullying awareness, mental health, and community volunteerism. My ultimate goal in life is to be the youngest Canadian Mayor of a major city ever, but specifically in the heart of North America. In the next 10 or 20 years I plan to run again to eventually become the Mayor of Winnipeg.
At the beginning of this blog, I wrote that the concept of family is important to me and connects me to the activism I do. The major reason for my running to be the Mayor of Winnipeg is so that I can support my family, especially my mother, who is probably the greatest single mom in the world. I haven't always been a good son to her but I want her to know... I'm always thinking of her wherever I go in my life. My mom doesn't really understand the so-called activism part of my life so it's a struggle most of my time to communicate the things that I do in the city. I have brought her to some of the events that I volunteer with and help at but I want her to come along with me more often to show her the impact of the work for herself.
The most recent question I have asked myself is “What keeps me going?” The answer to that question relates to my values of Respect, Vision, and Inspiration. These are what push me to what I do and are foundational teachings for my life. The Next Up leadership program has enriched my gifts by lending me very important tools and resources to develop my capacity to engage my local community and to strengthen my network of influence. One of the biggest impacts that Next Up has helped me to realize is that I can step back a little. I’ve realized that I know a lot more then I thought I did. Next Up has introduced me to many other types of individuals that I don't think I would have met on my own, and that is just cool.
I believe that “It only takes one moment to change everything” and for me that moment was meeting someone known as the ‘NorthEnd MC’ who was recognized by Time Magazine in 2015. He is one of the co-founders of “Aboriginal Youth Opportunities.” It is thanks to that individual, who spoke at a youth conference that I was volunteering at called “Count Me In” in February 2014, that got first got me involved in activism. My advice to other youth in general and Next Up leaders would simply be taken from Fearless R2W and that is to be fearless. Don't be afraid to use and share the gifts you have and to ask for help when you need it, to take time for self-care and your mental well being, and to never forget to sometimes take a nap in between your breaks. Best of Luck!
Love and Respect
Christopher C. Clacio