By: Camelle Scott-Mujahid and Christoph Sawyer

Four Youth Led Social change groups from Connecticut joined their peers from all over the country in Durham, North Carolina this fall for the Funders Collaborative on Youth Organizing’s (FCYO) national convening – Youth Power: Who we are, Where we have come from, and Where we are going. The convening was an opportunity for youth organizers to come together, connect with their history, and share their work with one another.

Youth leaders from Norwalk’s Youth Council for Justice (YC4J), Hartford Food Systems (Grow Hartford), New London’s Hearing Youth Voices, and Connecticut Students for a Dream (based in Stamford) participated in the conference. We spoke with David from YC4J and Omayra from Grow Hartford about their experiences in Durham.

Grow Hartford Youth Organizer Omayra with Organizer Naveena

David, Youth Organizer at Youth Council for Justice

The event took place at the Hayti Heritage Center in Durham
A venue with deep roots in the Black community’s fight for social justice.


Here are ten amazing things young people did together in Durham.


1) Young people came together . . .

. . . and healed together.

“The seminar session was called ‘I love myself and my people.’ Organizing is strenuous and takes a toll on you. You need to take time to deal with yourself and deal with your emotions before trying to help the world. In the session, the facilitator asked, ‘What will you take away from this experience to help yourself heal?’ My response was that I’m taking this to help my group. She came back and said, ‘how will this help you?’ As organizers we think about the people 24/7 and she challenged me to think about myself.”



2) Young people learned together . . .

. . . in workshops

“I gained knowledge about different people who did things in the civil rights movements who usually fall to the background. You always think about MLK and Rosa Parks. We learned about this man, T.O. Jones who organized a union. He worked 50 hours a week but was only paid for 40. He got people to walk off work and while they weren’t working. He raised money for them and he paid them”

– Omayra

. . . and on a learning tour of Durham.

#knowyourhistory #knowledgeispower #respecttheyouth #youthpower2015

A photo posted by rethink (@rethink.nola) on

“We stopped to see legendary activist Pauline murray’s home. We also saw Black Wall Street after it was taken down. Seeing it as it is now, I’m imagining it as it was then. It looks like a downtown area that’s gentrified.”

– David


3) Young organizers honored those who came before them.

#ourblackfuture #youthpowerdurham James Baldwin and Harriet Tubman on our altar today

A photo posted by Hearing Youth Voices (@hearing_youth_voices) on


4) Young people danced . . .

Feeling the Durham drums. #youthpower2015 #youthpowerdurham

Posted by The Funders’ Collaborative on Youth Organizing – FCYO on Saturday, November 14, 2015


. . . rhymed . . .


. . . and made their voices heard.

“We did a lot of chants and a lot of songs that brought everyone together. It’s uplifting. I’d like to bring that back to our group.”

– Omayra


5) Young people honored their intersecting identities.

#SayHerName #BlackGirlsMatter @poweru305 #EndWarOnYouth #YouthPower2015

A photo posted by Alliance 4 Educational Justice (@4edjustice) on

“I went to a trans and queer workshop which was really cool. I learned about what they go through. It was impactful because everyone was created in different ways and should be able to live their lives like they want to without people judging them. I also went to a black girls matter workshop. We talked about some powerful things and created a sister bond.”

– Omayra


6) Young people built a vision for the future.


7) Young people heard Bree Newsome speak and perform.

In the wake of the Charleston Massacre, Bree Newsome captivated the world when she courageously scaled a flagpole at the North Carolina statehouse and took down the Confederate flag.Bree_Newsome

“I removed the flag not only in defiance of those who enslaved my ancestors in the southern United States, but also in defiance of the oppression that continues against black people globally in 2015 . . . I did it for all the fierce black women on the front lines of the movement and for all the little black girls who are watching us. I did it because I am free.”

– Bree Newsome



8) Young people heard Niya Kenny* tell her story . . .

*Niya watched as her classmate Shakara was violently assaulted by a school resource officer. She was also arrested when she stood up and spoke out in support of the young woman. #Assaultatspringvalleyhigh

. . . and stood in solidarity with her.



9) Young people met with movement elders to discuss Intergenerational Organizing.

“Older people can bring knowledge of things they have experienced. The young can learn from them and go about ways of organizing and what their next steps should be.”

– Omayra


10) Young people took action together.

“We love you, we see you!” – Protest in solidarity with Inside-Outside #YouthPower2015 #YouthPowerDurham

Posted by The Funders’ Collaborative on Youth Organizing – FCYO on Friday, November 13, 2015


To learn more, checkout #youthpower2015 and #youthpowerdurham on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.