In Durham we focused on the theme of space, place, and power. This is the first year we organized a Freedom School in Durham so it was important for us to think often and critically about our relationship to the world around us.
From learning about the historically Black neighborhood of Hayti to reproductive justice, we considered the ways we relate to the world at large: what is our power? what is our space?
We left Durham Freedom School with a renewed curiosity to claim and reclaim the spaces and places we love from the powers that be.
Our Raleigh Freedom School focused on the history and legacy of education and youth justice issues in the U.S. dating back to slavery and the genocide of indigenous people.
Together we learned about how history intimately impacts our present and the systems of oppression established the norms we live by (prisons, jails, segregation…) hundreds of years ago.
And just like those who came before us, discovering the truth of our power gets us a little closer to youth liberation and freedom for all people everyday.
WHERE THE ROAD LEADS:
Over the past 5 years, participants in our trainings have become trainers and facilitators in our programming. Some have been brought on as organizing interns and fellows and then part-time staff. YOI alumni who have been trained and staffed with us have gone on to organize with farm workers, low-wage workers, and even internationally with the parents of the missing 43 students in Ayotzinapa.
We see it important to ensure that our leadership is comprised of young people who have trained with us. This leadership changes and cycles every few years so we can continue to develop some of the best organizers, artists, social change makers ever.
This year we are supporting a huge transition for YOI. Our director Elena is taking a medical leave, here’s what she has to say about where we’ve been so far:
“This summer I will be taking a 3 month medical sabbatical to recover from reconstructive surgery. I am grateful to my co-workers and friends at the Youth Organizing Institute, Ignite NC, and the Southern Vision Alliance for offering me paid medical leave, enabling me to take the time to heal and not have to worry about making ends meet during recovery.
Most people in the United States cannot access paid medical leave. A 2009 study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research compared paid sick leave policies in the top 22 countries on the UN’s HDI ranking (Human Development Index). The US is the only country that does not guarantee paid sick leave.
The Youth Organizing Institute is a scrappy organization dedicated to supporting young people in their journey to transform power our schools, neighborhoods, communities, and in the world into one based on the principles of cooperation, mutual aid, restorative justice, and respect.
I’ve dedicated the last five years of my life to its mission and to the young people who have emerged as the new leadership – both of the organization, and of many other struggles for social, racial, gender, and environmental justice.
This summer represents a new chapter for the Youth Organizing Institute. At the end of my medical sabbatical, I will return, but with a different relationship to the organization. I will be stepping back from leadership and doing what I can to support the impressive staff of YOI they stretch themselves to take on new roles and transition the leadership of the organization into one that is led by a staff whose average age is 23.
To my friends, family, comrades, and anyone who has been touched by the work of the Youth Organizing Institute these past five years, please consider making a contribution to the 2015 Summer Freedom School Fund. Your support will both help offset the cost of my paid medical leave and of this summer’s Freedom Schools.”
This year we are hosting Freedom School in Raleigh and Durham! New participants can apply to be a part of either track. We are also taking applications for intern roles from youth who have been through our Freedom School program before.
Last week we came together to scheme and dream for this summer’s Freedom School. Be on the lookout for the application!!!
Four of beloveds in our YOI community are graduating this Spring! Congratulations to Andrea, Lil Ajamu, Carly, and Sanyu. We have witnessed your hard work, your persistence, and your spirit as you have continued on your journey. We can‘t wait for everything else to come! And we’re so honored to have you on our side.