Dorchester Organizing and Training Initiative (DOT-I) is a leadership development and organizing training program for Vietnamese American young adults (16-30) in Fields Corner, Dorchester. The young people leading DOT-I believe that building the power of people in their community and strengthening the local economy and environment requires ending the cycle of displacement. In Dorchester, this means standing up to both displacement and deportation.
Moving from survival to self-determination informs the decision-making structure of DOT-I as well. Young people are the core decision-makers for the program: they are responsible for developing curriculum, leading campaigns, and setting the direction of DOT-Is work. To make this possible, DOT-I raises funds to support the full participation of their community members in the fellowship through covering the costs of travel, interpretation, food, and member’s time.
Yet the point of building youth leadership is to give power to the experiences of young people - but not to separate them from the rest of their community members who have valuable guidance and perspective. DOT-I’s young leaders recognize this and are responsible for door-knocking their communities to hear about the concerns and experiences of all of their community members before coming to decisions about their direction. Priorities are often reimagined as new youth organizers and new lived experiences come into the fold.
Youth organizing might conjure a certain image in one’s mind of a tech-savvy young person engaging their peers online. Instead, the young people in this Dorchester community study tactics that let them be a bridge for community action with all generations in their community. They see door knocking, flyering at train stations, and conducting direct outreach as necessary to engage a wide section of their community, and are out there doing this work to create multiracial, multilingual, and multigenerational community power. This includes providing ongoing support and training to Vietnamese organizers, many of whom are 1.5 and 2nd generation, to develop and strengthen their Vietnamese language ability to hold more conversations with community members and organize in-language.
“We believe that anti-displacement organizing is core to building the power of people in a community and strengthening the local economy and environment,” reminds Kevin Lam. “We know that these conversations must include care for the planet, good jobs, and community ownership, not simply more affordable units.”