The Just Youth Circle Listening Tour – North Carolina

Written by Jillian Daniels

YES! for Equity Youth Staff Member

On June 28th-July 2nd, the Partnership for Southern Equity’s YES for Equity team embarked on a Just Youth Circle Listening Tour in North Carolina. This eleven-state tour is a youth-led community effort to learn about the state of youth organizing in the Southeast region. The North Carolina leg of the tour made stops in three cities Charlotte, Greensboro, and Durham. Members of the YES! For Equity staff including Youth Staff, youth volunteers and Adult Allies, met with student leaders and community youth organizers at UNC Charlotte, North Carolina A&T (HBCU), and North Carolina Central (HBCU).

On the first day at UNC Charlotte YES! for Equity teamed up with SAFE (Students Achieving First Year Excellence) a peer mentoring program with a focus on students from historically marginalized backgrounds. SAFE student leaders invited us to have a table during their new students fair that hosted hundreds of incoming freshmen. YES! was able to interview over 25 students about the social justice issues that were important to them, ways adults and people in power can help their advocacy causes and what would get them excited about joining a regional network of youth organizers in the southeast. Some of the topics raised during the interviews were high expectations for Black and Brown youth, with a severe lack of support economically, mentally, emotionally, and educationally. Other issues included gentrification without representation, sexual assault, and the systemic devaluing of Black girl bodies, and poor and neglected school systems in communities of color.

On the second day, the team headed to North Carolina A&T (HBCU) where the YES team held a very engaging listening session with 12 youth organizers, student leaders and parents about the state of youth organizing inGreensboro. The session provided a conversation that gave great insights into the issues impacting NC youth and their communities that struggles of quality education, racial microaggressions in school systems, power dynamics between teachers and students, am lack of relevant curriculums in schools. Following the session, our team visited and toured the International Civil Rights Center and Museum. On the third day of the trip, when Garrison, a Youth staff on the YES! team, was questioned about his favorite part of the trip, he answered that “The museums were very interesting and a great way for us to learn more about the North Carolina community and their historical triumphs and trials.”

On final day, the team traveled to Durham where they met with five Youth Organizers/Leaders and four adult allies from four organizations at North Carolina Central University. Issues such as gun violence and community trauma were a big topic at this session. This stop on the tour was sponsored by the North Carolina Black Alliance. The team also traveled to the North Carolina History Museum where they learned about North Carolina’s rich history from pre-colonial to the present. It’s fair to say that the very first JYC tour was a success! The YES for Equity team cannot wait for the next part of the tour.