Marlene Meraz, a 17-year-old co-founder of ROYAL, says the advocacy group “is my drive. I am so thankful to work with such amazing youth that are a part of the organization.”
Revolutionary Oak Park Youth Action League, is a student led group that started in 2018. It advocates for Black and Brown voices and works to make Oak Park, and the rest of the world, not only a better place for Black and Brown people but for all.
The founders Meraz, Cindy Brito, Jocelyn Meraz, and Antione Ford are all young Black and Brown students. ROYAL started when the youngest members were just in middle school. The group was motivated by the murder of Trayvon Martin and began by selling hoodies with the phrase “We Are Trayvon.”
The organization meets every week at the Euclid Avenue United Methodist Church and hosts various events such as workshops to enhance Black safety when coming in contact with police officers, as well as rallies and events.
Miracle Smith, a 16-year-old member of ROYAL, says the group played a role in police resource officers being taken out of Oak Park and River Forest High School. Though the organization is not affiliated with OPRF it continues to make an impact in the community they live in by spreading their voices for ones that can’t.
One of ROYALs current projects involves a climate action plan that calls for free bikes and protecting water supplies especially so that BIPOC communities have consistent access to fresh water. They stress that though it may not seem directly related to the BIPOC community, according to the Princeton Student Climate Initiative, BIPOC communities are affected by climate change on a significantly higher level than their white counterparts.
ROYAL has become more than an advocacy group to its members. It has quickly become a community that supports its members when tragic things happen not only to the BIPOC community but to individuals. Sometimes the members of ROYAL just come to meetings to be in a place with people who understand the discrimination and struggles they face on a daily basis.
Meraz says, “ROYAL is one of my biggest accomplishments and we have truly become a family over the years.”
Ashley Brown is a student at OPRF and a contributing reporter for Wednesday Journal.