The Raven Corps is a youth-powered movement and nonprofit based out of Portland, Oregon in the US.
It supports, empowers and mobilizes a growing community of young anti-oppression activists and changemakers (Ravens) aged 15-22 who promote liberation, justice, and sustainability through advocacy projects known as ‘operations’.
The vegan organization was co-founded by Claire Howe, who serves as its executive director and is named after the species of bird that is resourceful but often goes unappreciated in society – much like young people.
There are several ‘Corps’ that focus on a specific area and these are organized and run by a Lead Raven who determines and guides their Corps’ focus and actions.
All the advocacy work is created, planned, and implemented by the Ravens, while administration is run by older people who help the organization to grow while always centering and amplifying the voices of the Ravens.
We spoke with Cami Hoffman, 20, Youth Director of The Raven Corps.
What attracted you to The Raven Corps and joining?
In a time where I felt disillusioned and helpless, The Raven Corps offered me inspiration and empowerment.
I was involved with several different forms of advocacy at the time, but I never felt like I really belonged or had a space anywhere.
It’s surprisingly hard to find a group of people who hold a totally anti-oppression stance for humans, animals, and the planet.
When I found The Raven Corps, I felt the sense of belonging I’d been searching for.
We are a truly youth-led organization; all of our operations are designed by Ravens with a holistic anti-oppression lens.
I felt hopeful from all of the change-making potential we had (and still have) simply by being together.
What were some of the advocacy projects (operations) that you organized when you joined?
I started off as a Lead Raven for the San Diego Raven Corps.
Our initial operations revolved around the connections between environmental justice and animal rights.
For our very first operation, we used visual representations to show how much water is used to produce cow’s milk as opposed to certain plant milks.
We’ve also educated people on how fishing is detrimental to our oceans, and offered free samples of veggie “meat” that are accessible at affordable at most grocery stores.
What did you learn from organizing these?
Through doing those operations, I learned that people are generally much more receptive to new information when they are approached with basic compassion and respect.
It’s harder for people to feel threatened or defensive when they feel seen and understood. But don’t get me wrong: there is definitely a time and place for raging against oppression.
What benefits have you got from being a Raven?
Community x 1000. The solidarity I found with Ravens is something I will forever be grateful for.
I was pretty socially withdrawn in school, and I often felt like I was an odd one out for actually caring about our collective well-being and radical change.
When I joined The Raven Corps, I realized I wasn’t as alone as I thought.
How has being a Raven helped you personally as well as professionally?
I feel like in so many ways, the personal is professional (and vice versa).
Being involved with The Raven Corps has challenged me to take up space like never before.
I spoke at climate strikes, paneled at animal rights conferences, led within my community, and more.
The Raven Corps really allowed – and pushed – me to lean in to being a leader, something I never thought I had in me.
I will be eternally grateful for that, and for the hope and inspiration I feel every day just from working with fellow Ravens.
What does your current role as Youth Director entail?
My role as Youth Director is pretty flexible.
In The Raven Corps, there are very few things that are set in stone.
I love that about this organization – it feels realistic and radical.
Our organization is constantly changing and adapting to meet the needs, wants, and passions of the Ravens involved.
As Youth Director, I’m essentially the partner to our badass Executive Director, Claire Howe.
Currently, I manage our Instagram page, welcome new Ravens, co-facilitate meetings, help with resource development, support Lead Ravens in their Corps, and do a lot of miscellaneous behind-the-scenes work.
In the near future, my role will involve more working one-on-one with Lead Ravens to help them with creating operations they’re passionate about.
Due to Covid you’ve created the online QuaranTEEN community using Zoom and Discord. Tell us more about this.
Creating our virtual youth activist community center is hands down one of the best things we’ve ever done.
When COVID hit and stay-at-home orders went into effect, we felt our Ravens suffering.
The isolation of quarantine is bound to take a toll on anyone, especially young people who are still finding their way in life.
So, we created QuaranTEEN, which we now simply call The Raven Corps because it’s become our main community space.
Our community became closer than ever before through this whole process. We started off organizing on Slack, but that felt a little too corporate.
Several Ravens were pushing to move to Discord, so we did! Most Ravens were conveniently already using Discord.
It’s a much more engaging and casual platform, and it allows us to have space for all our Corps, community chats, HQ channels, and Zoom events.
Why is there a minimum age limit of 15 to join?
In our opinion, 15 is the perfect age to start digging deep into advocacy.
We like to look at oppression as the layered, complex, multi-dimensional beast that it is – that’s heavy work!
How can younger people, under 15, become involved in some way?
We hope to be able to work with younger ages in a more concrete way soon, but for now, they can sign up for our newsletter and follow us on social media.
Sometimes we have events and volunteer opportunities that are open for all ages.
What else would you like to tell us?
I wish more people knew about The Raven Corps. It truly is one of a kind, and it really is one of the greatest things I’ve had the honor of being a part of.
We are anti-oppression, youth-led, ever-changing, for people, animals and the planet.
We all just want a better world, and The Raven Corps empowers us to come together and work towards that.