“If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be a part of your revolution.”

We danced, we learned, we created.

Gemynii's Art as Resistance to Gentrification Workshop // Durham

Gemynii’s Art as Resistance to Gentrification Workshop // Durham

Since our start seven years ago, we have cultivated a space to empower youth to create their own safe spaces and organizations, to learn from each other, and to find many different ways to connect with the topics we cover. In the process, we learn as much as from them about we from them. We learn about their school climates, how education policies affect them day-to-day, and the injustices they see in their own schools and communities. From that, we are always reshaping our curriculums to meet the needs of the group. We learn over and over again that young people will surpass any expectation you set. Their vibrancy, their ideas, their knowledge are invaluable.

Carly's History of Education Injustice Workshop // Raleigh

Carly’s History of Education Injustice Workshop // Raleigh

Freedom School is a two-week program that brings together high school-aged youth around the Triangle area and beyond to organizing skills, political analysis, restorative justice, and young people’s movement history. Every summer, Freedom School is transformative for both the staff and participants. In our Durham and Raleigh tracks this year, we covered topics ranging from reproductive justice, disability justice, and migrant justice, to the impacts map making, canvassing, and media training can have. From the histories of education, prisons, and colonialism, to gender expression and drag culture, art as a way to fight gentrification, and guerrilla theater.

Greensboro Field trip to International Civil Rights Museum // Raleigh

Greensboro Field trip to International Civil Rights Museum // Raleigh

How did we make it through the EIGHTH ANNUAL Freedom Schools? With the help of numerous volunteers, workshop leaders, and parents.

In Bull City, thank you to Chris and Joanna for providing rides to students. Thank you to Kristen for gathering lunch donations. Thank you CORE Catering, Pompieri Pizza, and the Durham Co-Op. Thanks also to Nicholas from Community Alliance for Public Education for bringing us great lunch. Thank you to Elena for coordinating a magical field day to Wheels. Happy Birthday to Eden. Happy Birthday to Assata Shakur. Thank you to Durham Friends Meeting allowing us to use this space, especially the DFM Peace & Social Concerns Committee.

In Raleigh, we have many thanks to give as well! Thank you to Jhari, Reed, and Chris for transportation. Thank you to Chris, Fernando, Jill, Butler’s Catering, Noodles & Co, Elena for feeding us. Thank you Seth for coming through with logistics. Thank you to Elena for coordinating a fantastic cookout. Thank you Pullen Memorial Baptist Church letting us use their space, year after year.

Thank you to the International Civil Right Museum, Beloved Community Center, Stephanie’s Catering, and Greenway Transits for the Greensboro field trip. Thank you so much to Benjamin, Pavithra, Snehal, Theo, Altha, Alex, Jeff, Kathryn, Sidney, and Jonathan for donating to our $5,000 for goal for this year’s Freedom School!!! Thank you to all staff, parents, workshop leaders, and volunteers who showed up and showed out: you made this happen.

Loan's Anti-Oppression 101 + Timeline Workshop // Durham

Loan’s Anti-Oppression 101 + Timeline Workshop // Durham

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Report-Back from our Restorative Justice Training

2014012595160419The Youth Organizing Institute, Education Justice Alliance, and NC HEAT organized a Restorative Justice training at Campbell University School of Law this past weekend.  Community members from across the Triangle and beyond joined to learn and practice the restorative justice process.  Participants included parents, students, and teachers, as well as key Wake county administrators. Christine Kushner, Chairman, Tina O’Neal, Director of Student Due Process, and Marrius Pettiford, Senior Director of Counseling and Student Services, all joined us.

We were fortunate as well to have Jon Powell, director of the Juvenile Justice Project at Campbell University, to lead our discussion. Jon set the mood by insisting that in our initial introductions we simply say who we are and what we love without mentioning our occupation or position in the community. The room had a diverse mix of age, race, gender identities and status, but in this space we left our titles at the door and communicated as a community with similar interests and aspirations for our schools.

2014012595140234A large component of the gathering was a peace circle, which we held for over 2 hours. One by one we shared our vision of an ideal school system. Common themes were a strong sense of community, physical and emotional safety, increased support for teachers and students, fewer school resource officers, and more counselors. In the evening we watched documentaries about restorative justice projects that brought closure and peace to  a murder victim’s family and the perpetrator and ended a long-term feud between two teenagers. Finally, we took a closer look at Wake County in particular and the racial disparities that plague school discipline.

By the end of the day we each had a greater understand of each other, but more importantly, we all decided to continue meeting together to overcome institutionalized racism and make the visions of an ideal WCPSS a reality.

Register Now for the 2013 YOI Winter Training!

educate agitate organize


We’re excited to announce that our annual winter training is now open for registration! The training will be held Friday, December 6th and Saturday, December 7th, with an optional sleepover on Friday night in Raleigh.

This year’s workshops will include Restorative Justice Practice, Human Graph Direct Action, Exploring Intersections Between Racism & Homophobia, Story Collecting, and Talking to Your Principal About Restorative Justice.

Please pre-register by Monday, December 2nd if you want to attend this training. Feel free to share this with any teen who has a passion for and a love of justice!

Another world is possible!


YOI Students Graduate

Graduation picture

On August 16, the Youth Organizing Institute gathered to celebrate the hard work and accomplishments of this year’s participants.  Graduates chatted and shared delicious food provided by community caterer, Eva Panjwani.  We shared stories with movement elders and family members in the historic WW Finlator Hall at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church.

After a report-back from our NC to FL Youth Solidarity delegation to support the Dream Defenders, youth shared projects and performances they had worked on independently in small groups. Family and community members offered snaps and applause as youth performed poems, presentations, and art pieces on issues in the school system, intersections of oppression, the evolution of sexism and feminism, and how they can solve issues in their own communities. As this year’s YOI graduates transition into the school year, we are excited to support them in the amazing work they’ll embark on in their own schools and communities!

YOI Goes to Greensboro

pictured: triangle youth in front of statues of the "Greensboro Four," four A&T students who began the sit-in movement of the 1960s
pictured: triangle youth in front of statues of the “Greensboro Four,” four A&T students who began the sit-in movement of the 1960s

On Thursday, July 11th, YOI joined several other area youth groups (SEEDSEl Pueblo, and Inter-Faith Food Shuttle’s young farmer’s training program) on a field trip to Greensboro. The students boarded biofuel buses and then headed out to the first stop: a tour at the International Civil Rights Center and Museum. The museum is located at the old Woolworth’s where the sit-in movement began, so we were able to see things such as the original lunch counters, dishes, and cash registers that were left behind when the department store closed.

Next, the buses headed over to the Beloved Community Center for lunch and fellowship with the community center staff and members of the NAACP. Our last activity was a grassroots history tour of Greensboro provided by the Beloved Community Center staff. Youth were able to see important historical sites such as Dudley High School and the site of the Greensboro Massacre. Visiting historical sites is an important way to remember our history and connect the work we are doing, as well as inspiring ourselves and honoring the sacrifices made by those who came before us.

Off to a great start

Session 1
Omi, leads YOI through an opening activity

On Tuesday July 9th we started the 4th annual summer Youth Organizing Institute. Over 20 youth from across the triangle gathered for the program. The first day was inspiring and will not soon be forgotten.

Along with the excitement of youth being able to meet other like-minded students, laughing during ice breakers and singing freedom songs, we began to build our ‘safe space’ that YOI participants and allies will grow and develop within in the next few weeks.

We began the day by getting to know each other and our stories. We described what ideals schools would consist of and discussed current problems young people are facing.

During the second part of the day we watched an inspiring film ‘Walk Out’ documenting the brave Chicano high school student-led protests that transformed California in the 1960s. Youth were able to open up about their own struggles with race and discrimination in their schools and their own desires to feel empowered and unified with other students.

Breakout 1 report group 2
Youth describing their ideal school

Having spaces where youth can be empowered to tell their stories and can have honest and meaningful dialogue is rare. The excitement and wisdom that youth bring to the program serves as a reminder of why youth organizing is so important. While we are only just beginning YOI this year, the experiences that youth are bringing to the program are setting the stage for a transformative summer.

This work is invaluable, and we need our community’s help to gather the resources to make it happen. With only 4 days left on our online fundraising campaign we need help reaching our goal! Can you give $10, $15, or $20 to help show your support and solidarity for these inspiring youth learning the tools to make a difference in our communities?

The 2013 Youth Organizing Institute starts tomorrow in Raleigh!

main pic for website

We are thrilled to have over 20 high school students from across the Triangle convening to build community and gain the tools to be organizers and advocates on their own behalf. In this exciting and critical time in North Carolina we recognize that building youth leadership in the movement is more important than ever! We need your support to help build the skills and leadership of young people. Help us by donating today!

The Youth Organizing Institute is doing something new as part of our new Building Bridges Teen Activist Convening Initiative and our 2013 Summer Curriculum.

For the forth year, the Youth Organizing Institute is putting together an exciting program for young people who want to learn about social justice history and organizing.  Due to overwhelming interest, this year we have DOUBLE the usual number of participants!  

This summer we are hosting a special Grassroots People’s History Field Trip to Greensboro on July 11.  The field trip includes:

  • Admission to the International Civil Rights Museum, the site of former Woolworths and the place the Greensboro 4 kicked off the Sit-In Movement,
  • A locally-made southern lunch served at the historic Beloved Community Center as we break bread with movement elders and share and listen to stories,
  • A customized grassroots people’s field trip of Greensboro created by the organizers at the Beloved Community Center,
  • Travel to and from Greensboro in a bio-diesel fueled bus,
  • Participation on the bus by Moral Mondays organizers who will share stories and teach us Movement Songs.

The cost per person is approximately $30.

It is so important to lift up our own People’s History – stories that we are not always taught in school.  In order to make this life-changing field trip a reality, we need support.

Spring Training

2013-05-04 14.16.59On May 4, high school students gathered for the Youth Organizing Institute Spring Training.  Youth from Orange, Wake, and Durham Counties gathered at the Street Scene Teen Center in Chapel Hill.  Popular education trainings were requested by the youth for this year’s spring training.  Additionally, leaders in NC HEAT helped to facilitate the trainings, along with adult allies from the UNC Center for Civil Rights and the Counter Cartographies Collective.


The curriculum included a school to prison pipeline 101 workshop, followed by a facilitation training so that the attendees could bring the training back to their schools and communities.  After lunch we had data, mapping, and cartography exercises to analyze data, then transform it into accessible and useful forms. This Spring’s Institute laid the groundwork for  the 4th annual Summer Institute, which will take place in July.