Amplifying Voices of Experience
Youth MOVE National (YMN) is a youth-driven organization dedicated to improving services and systems that support positive growth and development by uniting the voices of individuals who have lived experience in various systems. A major part of that is working to expand and enhance the Youth Peer Support workforce!
The Youth MOVE Change Initiative (YMCI) is an effort within YMN that seeks to amplify the Youth Peer Support movement with a focus on BIPOC & LGBTQ+ communities. As part of this initiative, we are launching “Intersectional Perspectives,” an online gallery featuring youth and young adults with lived experience. Throughout the life of this project, YMCI participants affirmed the importance of learning from other leaders with lived experience
Intersectionality is a term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw, an American civil rights advocate and a leading scholar of critical race theory. The concept of intersectionality describes the ways in which systems of inequality based on gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, class, and other forms of discrimination “intersect” to create unique dynamics and effects. For example, when a Black, Muslim, trans woman wearing a Hijab is being discriminated against, it would be impossible to dissociate her trans identity from her Muslim identity or to isolate the dimension(s) causing her discrimination. Most often, multiple forms of inequality are experienced simultaneously, and must therefore be analyzed and addressed together in order to prevent one form of inequality from reinforcing another. Our gallery is called “Intersectional Perspectives” because we want to uplift recommendations and experiences of youth and young adults intentionally, at various intersections of identity.
Digital Illustrations for Intersectional perspectives were created by Trenita Finney.
What advice would you offer people looking to support Black communities Impacted by child-serving systems?
“To support Black communities impacted by child-serving systems is to recognize the history of implicit bias and white supremacy that infiltrate these systems. Black communities are often disproportionately represented in these systems and subject to disparities in outcomes. Scholars even argue that the child serving systems, especially child welfare, is another way to police Black families”
Lack of formal peer support within rural communities – can you elaborate on what that means to you and your community?
“Many young people in rural communities are affected by mental health, but don’t know where to start. It is important that we continue to expand and to provide youth peer support opportunities to these communities, as well as opening pathways for education and training. Rural communities are definitely behind, but just like everything: change is possible and is becoming a reality.”
Can you speak to the importance of prioritizing representation when seeking leaders to serve on boards?
“When a group of individuals is not representative of the diverse world we live in, idea and solution generation is limited to those of a single lived experience. Even more problematic is when these individuals are not representative of the audience which their organization aims to serve.”
What advice would you offer people looking to support Trans and Nonbinary young people impacted by child serving systems?
“Anytime I get the opportunity to train, speak to, or partner with others in relation to my own lived experience and supporting Trans and Nonbinary young people, it is important to me to underscore that loving and affirming Queer, Trans, and Nonbinary youth and people is suicide prevention.”
Disability Justice in Youth Peer Support – What does that look like based on your knowledge and experience?
“A main focus of peer support is “meeting folks where they are” to ensure that they are getting what they need in a self- determined manner. Including disabled individuals into every aspect of the planning and implementation of your peer support programs is essential to providing this necessary service. When in doubt, ask the disabled individuals in your community how you can better include them, listen and take action.”
Disability Justice in Youth Peer Support – At the intersection of race, gender, neurodiversity, and mental health – What are some barriers to receiving quality healthcare?
“I think people aren’t educated enough about the spectrum of experience with Neurodiversity. In my opinion, when we hear about neurodiverse people we don’t view them as people with different experiences or different brains who require environments that offer unique approaches to understanding information.”
Based on your knowledge and experience in public health, mental health, and advocacy, what is your perspective and feelings around graphic recording and its value in these types of discussions?
“Visual notetaking is a practice of deep listening. I listen and capture the words of speakers, especially when they express something with strong emotion(s). If the speaker says something that generates a visual in my mind, I draw it. When all is said and done, my notes visualize, clarify, and organize the group’s wisdom.”
In more recent years, there has been an increase in Youth Peer Support (YPS) efforts within the education system. Can you describe what YPS programming at SPARK looks like, and the impact you believe it has had on students?
“Peer support allows youth to utilize their lived experience with some aspect of life to lead, create community, and diminish the stigma associated with needing support.”