Written by: Kristin Thorp
The Youth MOVE Change Initiative (YMCI) launched in the spring of 2021. The program is designed to enhance and expand the youth peer workforce, with a specific intention to address the unique needs of Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC), and/or LGBTQIA2S+ youth. In partnership with the Upswing Fund, this initiative is designed to offer a pathway for BIPOC and/or LGBTQ+ youth and young adults with lived experience to receive training, subject matter expert coaching, and other professional development opportunities to help mitigate systemic barriers to workforce entry. As part of this effort, the YMCI hosted a Summit on November 13th, 2021. The event was designed for BIPOC and/or youth advocates and youth leaders ages 16 to 29 to join an intentional space to generate strategies and solutions for improving youth peer services within their communities.
The summit offered an opportunity to hear from two incredible keynote speakers- Blair Imani and Ashlee Marie Preston. Blair invited us to reflect on colonization’s impacts on how race, religion, ethnicity, and gender are understood, the importance of radical self-care and taking the space to prioritize what helps us to grow, and how lived experience is expertise. You can hear more from Blair on her Get Smarter YouTube Channel.
Blair’s incredible keynote was followed by the opportunity to participate in a breakout discussion on radical self-care. Participants and facilitators then brought that conversation into listening sessions where participants were invited to share their thoughts, feelings, and considerations on what it means to be an LGBTQIA2S+ and/or BIPOC young person navigating diverse and intersecting experiences and identities. Through these conversations, we learned about the value of youth peer support, the barriers young people experience when accessing mental health services and supports, and what structural and policy changes are needed to better support populations that have been historically marginalized by the dominant culture, including youth-serving systems.
After a short break, Ashlee Marie Preston joined us for our final keynote of the day. Ashlee’s keynote asked the audience to consider capitalism’s relationship to white supremacy and how in order for us to actively dismantle white supremacy, we must deconstruct our relationship to consumption and consumerism. She also spoke about healing trauma, both individually and collectively through vulnerability, joy, practicing gratitude, and affirmations. Check out Ashlee’s TED Talk: Effective Allyship: A Transgender Woman’s Take on Intersectionality to learn more from her.
Finally, to end the day, we celebrated our time together with an incredible Drag performance featuring LGBTQIA2S+ and BIPOC performers. We also hosted an intentional space for networking with other LGBTQIA2S+ and BIPOC young professionals. It was an incredible way to wrap up a powerful day with fun and connection!