A Look at Our First-Ever Youth Voice Awards
Last Friday night, Brooklyn Community Foundation was the proud host of the first-ever Youth Voice Awards—a celebration of youth-led grantmaking. Over 50 youth, family members, and nonprofit leaders joined our dynamic Brooklyn Youth Fellows to learn more about the six youth-led projects selected for funding and the young leaders behind the proposals:
- Brooklyn Free School - "Let's Talk About It! Housing Justice" is aimed at educating and creating a documentary on housing justice and gentrification. The project will engage youth by arranging visits to town hall meetings, reading articles and watching interviews addressing housing, gentrification and justice, as well as opportunities to engage with the Mayor’s office and participate in local shelter events. As part of the project, the youth team will create a documentary and facilitate a workshop for youth on housing rights.
- Sevonna Marie Brown with Ancient Song Doula Services - "Reproductive Renaissance" uses grassroots political philosophy to foster a restorative space for women of color to come together and seek refuge in reproductive justice and education. Black girls and women of color have a history of using their personal spaces—the living room, grandma’s bedroom, the kitchen, the beauty salon, the front porch—as spaces for women-centered empowerment and healing.
- Iyeshima Harris with Eco:StationNY - "Farm to Cafeteria" is a student-led outreach project focusing on healthy eating and self-empowerment that engages students at a place and time they are thinking about food: the lunchroom. The project will use school lunch and culturally relevant food to teach youth how to healthfully and affordably prepare meals they love. Through cooking demos, students will learn how they can combine fresh produce with goods from their supermarket, instilling in them the knowledge, access, and creativity to needed to transcend and redefine what food means in a low-income neighborhood.
- Yamil Torres with the Center for NuLeadership - “Bridging the Healing Gap” will facilitate gatherings that provide space and educate youth who are affiliated with gangs and/or are street involved about how, why, and where gangs originated, explain political and racial history, and principles of what gangs were founded on. The second half of the project will focus on changing the way the larger community views the youth by opening up dialogue with an intergenerational event.
- Shaqur Williams with Off the Page, Inc - "All American Boys" is a show, adapted from the book by the same name, that addresses different points of view between a black teenager and a white teenager in a community and the way police officers approach them. The project brings black and white actors together to work on this production and to talk about the problem facing the black community and how to work together to address it.
- Hasiba Haq with Arts and Democracy - "Sari Project" aims to connect young Bangladeshis with women in the community in an intergenerational exchange of stories using the idea of Saris, a traditional outfit for Bangladeshi women, to explore their immigration stories and their histories. The project will help young immigrants and second-generation youth connect with elders in their society, and help carve an identity for them in a diverse borough.
The Youth Voice Awards was an incredibly inspiring celebration. It was a celebration of ideas and dreams of Brooklyn’s youth for a more equitable future for themselves and their own communities. It was a celebration of the collective work of 20 Brooklyn Youth Fellows who have met over the last nine months at the Foundation to lead our first ever youth-led grantmaking program. The spirit and power of youth leadership and determination was present!
During this past year, our Youth Fellows discussed their dreams for a better Brooklyn, they defined what justice looked like, what values they aspired to reach, and what issues most affected youth like themselves. Their own unique experiences, as well as their work at community-based organizations across Brooklyn as part of the fellowship, contributed to how they defined the focus of this grantmaking program.
Their work within communities touched on issues affecting court-involved young people, policing of youth of color, food justice, islamophobia, and gender justice. This work helped them to evaluate how youth could take on the issues that face them. Their multilayered discussions and reflections as they considered how applicants' projects addressed their values and "justice pillars" were inspiring to witness. These discussions and their remarks as they presented the Awards to their fellow youth were a window into their struggles and their visions for a more just world.
We are truly honored to support their leadership and are so excited to advance this effort in the years to come! Thank you to our awesome Fellows, the outstanding Awards winners, and their families and nonprofit mentors who support them each and every day. And a special thank you to our dedicated Brooklyn Youth Fellowship coordinator Michelina Ferrara for making it all happen.