The State of the Young – The Young Voices Action Collective: Building New Realities, One Dream at a Time

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Do you remember the dreams you had for the world when you were a child? What barriers kept you from making them a reality? Are they the same ones keeping you stifled now? Were there any systems that were created to support you? We know that Black communities around the world are resisting all forms of systematic genocide and state sanctioned violence. From post-Atlantic slavery in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to 23 hour solitary confinement in US prisons, Southern food deserts and water poisoning in Flint our young people are suffering…why? As young Black revolutionaries at The Young Voices Action Collective (YVAC) Fund it is one of our organizing principles to ask questions of ourselves and communities that inspire deep reflection in order to move forward in our path to liberation. Upon those personal and collective answers, we seek to organize Black and Brown youth to create alternative systems that are rooted in their aspirations and solidarity.

In 2021, The YVAC Fund launched the State of the Young Survey as a tool to gauge the needs of young people and create a mutual aid network to alleviate the issues exacerbated by the COVID-19 virus. True to our principles, across our three chapters in Michigan, Alabama, and Pennsylvania our base of young people answered two simple questions: What issues matter to you and why? The answers varied from food insecurity, affordable housing and education, mental health and trauma informed care, police presence in schools, and climate justice. Overwhelmingly, our children are concerned for their safety, survival, and wellbeing. Newly informed and forever inquisitive, we then had to ask— how are we meeting the basic needs of our members while also creating someplace soft for them to land? What would it look like for our community to have a physical place to return to? We soon found our answer right on the Eastside of Detroit.

Located directly behind East English Village Prep, at 17163 E. Warren Ave. The YVAC Hub & Wellness Center operates as the district’s first Restorative Justice Hub and Free Store, providing access to mutual aid essentials to community members and local organizers alike. A space with love woven into its foundation and resilience in the rooftops. In 2023, The YVAC Fund partnered with Building Beyond Barriers—an international trauma recovery and mental health wellness center to launch the My Mental Health Matters Campaign. The year-long initiative seeks to equip young people with the tools needed to promote mental wellness through awareness events, panel discussions, peer support tables, and direct training to become trauma informed first responders. The Wellness Center hosts monthly dinners, trainings, and community events to further empower youth while simultaneously creating a culture of mutual aid, radical love, and curiosity. 

In times of destruction, we must be brave enough to ask ourselves inspiring questions. When was the last time you supported a young person’s dreams? What gaps in the system can you fill that would sustain our future?  How can you leave your community better than you found it? So here we are, searching for answers, honeying up to our future selves, returning to our principles and dreaming up possibilities, finding the magic in the voices of young people and healing generations. Reaching across hoods, hearts and the stars to create a new world where curiosity is our compass and liberation our north star.  

Bio: rakaya nasir-phillips (they/he) is a Black queer southern haiku poet and freedom dreamer. Called to liberation work at a young age, they’ve been throwing down in the south around issues of gender justice, prison abolition, and environmental racism. and food sovereignty. He’s one of the good troublemakers of Greensboro Mutual Aid and the Movement Storyteller at Young Voices Action Collective dreaming and scheming for our futures. They’re a proud uncle of two and the author of a haiku collection to be published in 2025.

2023 Staff retreat – Alabama A&M

State of the Young Rally – MCKEESPORT PA

Rally for Tyree Nichols – North Alabama