Youth For Black Lives: Teaching Traceable Impact
“Youth for Black Lives is a collective based in Chicago led by young Black women and non binary people, focused on validating and amplifying the voices of young Black people within the movement. We aim to abolish systemic oppression through collaboration, educational outreach, and artistic expression.”
Currently, we are a team of 10 ranging from 15-20 years old.
Founded in 2016, Sophia Byrd, Natalie Bray, Eva Lewis, and Maxine Wint organized a sit-in at Millenium Park as an action against police brutality. This sit-in soon became a march that unified almost 2,000 people. The protest aimed to bring youth from all areas of Chicago in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. That same month, on July 28th, Chicago's South Shore neighborhood was impacted by the shooting and killing of 18 year old Paul O’Neal.
This led to the collective's second protest welcoming a 5th member, Maxine Aguílar. Then, Eva reached out to me via twitter. We connected on our relationship to the South Shore neighborhood and agreed to demand for cop cam footage to be released. This was my first time writing literature for a cause I felt passionate about. We submitted a petition to Change.Org which did result in release of the triggering video. Days before my senior year of high school I experienced two meetings as an organizer within a collective.
Entering Fall of 2016, Youth For Black Lives included students from Kenwood Academy, Walter Payton College Prep, Whitney Young Magnet, William Jones College Prep, and Francis W. Parker High Schools. That fall, we met with Superintendent Eddie Johnson, the Chief of Patrol, the Alderman of Mt. Greenwood, and the principle of Marist High School to address violent threats and actions harming the Black youth of Mt. greenwood. This meeting allowed us to collaborate with Payton Black Student Union member Jessica Daniels while formulating and voicing demands.
We once wanted public dialogue for law enforcement to meet community demands. We continued meeting with Superintendent Eddie Johnson to support this effort.
In March of 2017, we were invited to present a speech at the Women's March on Chicago.
By the Spring, we welcomed members Amaris Buford, Kanyinsola Anifowoshe, Selah Amoaku, and Amaya Lorrick.
As a collective, we read excerpts from Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde and agreed that “the master's tools will not dismantle the master's house.” This was an effort spearheaded by organizer Eva Lewis and in hindsight, foreshadowed the course our actions would soon take.
We redirected from a political organization to a non profit centered on education and engagement. This means art, service, discussion, and a boat of yet had experiences.
Our Youth Teach In Series Launched Fall of 2017 and became a 3 part event. Here, we offered a safe space for free attendance, meals, panel discussion, and interactive workshops. We understand that traditional education excludes the information our communities need to recognize our conditions. During that time we launched our #SaveOurGirls Campaign. This T-shirt is screen printed at Harold Washington Library in the You Media center with an original design by BoyDonavin (BoyDonavin.com). We draw attention human trafficking and organ harvesting which predatorily impact counted and countless Black women and girls specifically. For sustainability we thrift and wash blank t-shirts.
Summer of 2018, we expanded the concept of our Youth Teach In and presented the Back to School Block Party: Blackstone Summer. We continue free youth led education and add a school supply giveaway while keeping the Woodlawn community fed and engaged. We are working towards the third annual Blackstone Summer 2020.
Winter of 2018 we welcomed Nicole Alcalde, Yasmine Tarr, Iris Haastrup, and Laila Latta. Most recently we were joined by Kay Mabwa.
In the name of Youth For Black Lives, I would like to thank Assata’s Daughters, Chicago Community Trust, Mobilize Power Fund, SNCC, BackYard Series Chi, New Afrikan ImageMakers, Noes Naturals, Fourtune House, Kuumba Lynx, Kai Wright, NombreKari, Save Money Save Lives, Social Works Chi, Chicago Poetry Foundation, Amber Anderson, Sarika Doppalapudi, Maia Cho, The I Project, Kara Walker, DJ Bonita Apple Blunt, Private the Brand, SouthSide Weekly, Fempowerment, Izzys Photography Studios, Womens March, On the Table, Synergy Collective, Christian Jalon, Aaliyah Allah, Chef Kennedy, Rebirth Poetry Ensemble, Queer Initiatives, Agape Luv, Unladylike Chi, Stillwell Institute, DJ Ron Ron, DJ Nephus, Anai Akuei, Blackstone BikeWorks, Girlscouts of Greater Chicago, Black Youth Project 100, Major Taylor Cycling Club of Chicago, Karizma Black, Chloe Kelly, London Ghoulston, Preston Branton, Troy Blakey, Isaiah Blakey, Rori Hayes, Ashanti Owusu-Brafi, Kinn Marie, my co organizers, and all others who have volunteered, supported, and poured in.