Community and liberation are central goals of Yakima Community Aid, a youth-led group started last year by a pair of 2018 graduates from Davis High School.

The idea for Yakima Community Aid emerged in April, when then-sophomores Joy Dumas of Columbia University and Silvia Leija of Western Washington University left their college classrooms and began remote learning back at their homes in Yakima. The effects of the pandemic were being strongly felt at that time, with a rise in job losses and evictions, which concerned Leija and Dumas.

Now, a year since the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in Yakima County, the need for mutual aid has only increased, as has Yakima Community Aid’s membership.

Yakima Community Aid’s members want people to take care of their neighbors during these tumultuous times and beyond. The youth-led coalition works to raise money to help people in need pay their rent, get food on their tables, or purchase prescription medications. Donations are raised through the group’s website at https://yakimacommunityaideng.carrd.co.

The group’s first activity was a project called Everybody Eats that has supplied food to more than 100 homeless people in Yakima.

Then, late last spring, Yakima Community Aid expanded its community involvement to include advocating against racial injustice by using social media to support local Black Lives Matter protests. In June, the group drafted a proposal for the city of Yakima, the Yakima School District and the Yakima Police Department in response to the numerous instances of police brutality throughout the nation. The proposal, which can be found on the group’s website, included ending the school-to-prison pipeline, decriminalizing homelessness and redirecting police funding.

The group has continued its anti-racism efforts through an “Unlearning Book Club” that examines anti-racist, pro-LGBTQ and anti-colonial texts. As the group saw a rise in community involvement with Black Lives Matter protests, its members decided to educate protesters on the historical importance of these demonstrations.

The book club gathers online every other Saturday on Google Meets to discuss the reading materials. The articles, books and occasional videos discussed in the Unlearning Book Club are selected with the goal of dismantling internalized racism, homophobia, xenophobia and misogyny through education and conversation. A link to the meetings is available by messaging Yakima Community Aid on Instagram.

“A lot of people around here want to do good but don’t know how to do it,” said Noemi Sanchez, coordinator of its Everybody Eats program.

Mary-Frances Ballew is a senior at Selah High School.