Brooklyn Community Foundation is committed to supporting the leadership and agency of youth in creating community change. The Brooklyn Youth Fellowship is a youth-led grantmaking program that sees youth as central players in making decisions around supporting youth-centered and youth-led projects.
Brooklyn Youth Fellowship: The First Year
In the summer of 2015, we welcomed the first 20-member cohort of the Brooklyn Youth Fellowship. Over a 10 month period, Fellows between the ages of 16-24 with a strong interest in civil service and social justice worked with youth-serving nonprofits in Brooklyn. The group as a whole participated in trainings, strategic planning discussions for the Foundation, and youth-led grantmaking.
Youth Voice Awards
Over eight months, the Fellows worked together to create and implement the Youth Voice Awards, soliciting projects from youth who are working in partnership with community organizations. The Fellows chose eight funding areas, including economic and housing justice, racial and gender justice, and public health and reproductive justice.
The Youth Fellows selected these six projects for funding at a total of $12,500:
- 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.
Each project was awarded a grant of $2,100 for work that will take place over the summer and fall of 2016.
Youth Voice Awards support Brooklyn’s young people working in the following justice pillars, provided here with examples:
- LGBTQ Justice: Creating a safe space for LGBTQ identified youth at your mosque, church or temple
- Economic and Housing Justice: Creating a community art project that tells the stories of people living in your neighborhood and the impact gentrification has on them
- Public Health and Reproductive Justice: Hosting a Self-Love or Community Health Fair in your neighborhood where people can learn about ways to take care of themselves and connect to community resources
- Food and Environmental Justice: Starting a Cooking Club at your school where students learn to make healthy meals and snacks on a budget
- Immigrant Justice: Planning a film series in your school or community that showcases the voices of undocumented and immigrant youth
- Education Justice: Creating a big sib/little sib mentoring program where upperclassmen at your high school mentor youth at your local middle school
- Racial and Gender Justice: Planning a day of action at your school where all students meet to talk about identity and the impact our identities play in our lives
Brooklyn Youth Fellows reviewed and evaluated projects using the following criteria:
- Fit into one or more of the justice pillars, outlined above
- Position youth as leaders and decision makers in their own lives
- Provide opportunities for the growth and development of young people
- Help young people deepen historical and cultural understanding of their experiences and community issues
- Engage young people in political education and awareness
- Help young people build a collective identity as social change agents
- Have a neighborhood-based and community-driven approach
- Promote safe(r) spaces for young people to build, create and MAKE CHANGE!
Priority consideration was also given to projects that are led by directly affected youth, youth of color, LGBTQ young people, or immigrant youth.
2015-16 Brooklyn Youth Fellows
Raquan (Ray) Graham
Youngmichael (Daryl Mensah-Bonsu)