Youth voices take center stage

The Mission, home to many youths and families served by CYC, is well-known for its vibrant and diverse community. However, it’s not where one would typically expect to see the world premiere of a brand-new opera.

And yet, last month this very neighborhood hosted a uniquely inspiring event. Before an enthusiastic, sold-out audience at the ODC Theater in the Mission, The Emissary made its debut. Composed by Kenji Oh and inspired by an award-winning Japanese novel, the opera presents a dystopian, near-future world suffering from the effects of climate collapse. Despite the difficulties the characters face, the story is lightened by themes of youth positivity and intergenerational solidarity. The music, sung beautifully by the young cast, was glowing and hopeful.

The opera was commissioned and presented by San Francisco local opera company Opera Parallèle. Following the opening night performance, two remarkable CYC youth were invited to be lead panelists in a post-show discussion regarding youth activism and climate change. The conversation took place through the Opera Parallèle Bullhorn program, which seeks to amplify unheard voices.

The Emissary opera librettist Kelley Rourke interviews CYC youths Kali Dorabji Reyes and Eddy Jimenez on opening night.

Eddy Jimenez, a Mission resident and San Francisco native, is actively involved in the CYC Youth Justice Collective program. His focus on environmentalism and social justice has led him to participate in various local cleanup and restoration initiatives and community action events. Kali Dorabji Reyes, a high school junior, commits her time to Hummingbird Community Farm in Excelsior. On opening night, she spoke passionately about tackling the climate crisis through a decolonization lens.

This Bullhorn conversation exemplified the power of youth leadership and how important it is that youth voices be heard. On opening night of The Emissary, these two CYC youth had a rapt audience. Eddy drew a chuckle when he talked about attending his first of many community action events while still in the womb, and Kali connected the events of the opera with the need for transparent and inclusive decision-making about socially important issues.

We couldn’t be more proud of our two youths for their roles as teachers, leaders—and emissaries.