At 23, Jose Lopez has spent over half his life fighting for justice and opportunity in his native Bushwick, Brooklyn. He now runs the Youth Power Project, the program which introduced him to community activism in his adolescence. The Youth Power Project is the youth organizing arm of Make the Road New York, a member-run organization which helps people in low-income and immigrant communities advocate to improve their neighborhoods.
Make the Road also provides legal aid, adult education and assistance accessing healthcare. Most political empowerment organizations avoid this kind of work because they worry it will water down their message—they don’t want members to confuse them for a charity. Make the Road sees service provision as an opportunity to spark and convene discussions about the root causes of problems such as the lack of decent housing and quality healthcare and education in their neighborhoods. As Lopez explains, Make the Road seeks to transform community members’ needs, and anger, into social action.