A few weeks ago, I watched the March on Washington. I watched as the families of George Floyd, Jacob Blake and Breonna Taylor stood on a stage in front of a crowd of thousands. Their words echoed sentiments for police reform and honoring the loved ones that they lost. Their pain and grief were met with the support of thousands chanting their names.
The pain that this year has caused has been insurmountable, and quite honestly, the cynicism and sadness in me is doubtful that true change can truly arise from this movement. Yet, as I sat in my living room watching the March, a bit of hope rose in me. Maybe it was seeing the families of those killed by the police this year on stage, making a call to action in honor of the ones they lost. Maybe it was seeing the crowds gathered to meet their cry. But seeing them lifted the despair inside of me, even if for a moment.
It made me want to still believe in a future where Black youth might not have to live in a world like this. So I delved out of my living room and began researching organizations that were working to do that exact thing. There are many more than the ones mentioned on this list, but here are some that have made it their mission to make such a world exist.
The Black Youth Project was created in 2004 as a national research-based initiative that aimed to study the livelihoods, culture and resources of Black adolescents and young adults. It began when its principal investigator, Professor Cathy Cohen, formulated an online resource for Black youth to access the organization’s wide collection of data, articles and research. Activists, allies, scholars and educators can place their collective knowledge and experiences into one platform for Black youth to find. In the 16 years that they have been active, they have become a safe space for Black youth to share their ideas and mobilize them to create positive change in the world.
Donate to the Black Youth Project here.
Conceived after the shooting in Parkland, Florida, in 2018, this anti-violence organization was formed by a group of Black and brown adolescents in Chicago. Many of them have experienced gun violence themselves, or have lost family members to it. Since their inception, an estimated 50 people have joined their organization. In their meetings, they offer space for youth impacted by gun violence to share their struggles and have a safe environment in which to heal.
All of their work goes toward helping young Black people in their communities, whether it is bringing food to their neighbors or planning sports tournaments for children. Recently, amid the coronavirus pandemic, they turned their efforts toward helping the communities that were hit the hardest. Additionally, they have been educating people about the impacts of COVID-19 and supporting adolescents and young adults who are struggling with their finances due to the pandemic.
Donate to GoodKids MadCity here.
After repressive immigration bills were proposed by U.S. Congress in April 2006, the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) was founded. The organization started to grow through the help of the Priority Africa Network (PAN), a group that brings Black immigrants and Black Americans together to engage in discourse about the social and cultural issues that sow division.
BAJI brings both groups together to advocate for social, economic and racial justice. As a part of their unifying efforts, they began a project called the Black Immigration Network (BIN), a national group that assembles Black organizations to promote just immigration policies.
As a group, their mission is to fight against anti-immigrant rhetoric and unify the Black community in a fight for racial justice and equality.
Donate to Black Alliance for Just Immigration here.
Empowering Black and brown girls by encouraging self-acceptance and education is the mission of Pretty Brown Girl. It began in 2010 when Sheri Crawley and her husband realized how harmful media depictions of beauty were on their daughter, Laila. Upon that discovery, they began creating Pretty Brown Girl.
It’s a simple term of endearment, but the message behind it is powerful. It’s the affirmation that despite what this world may tell them about their skin tone or their natural hair textures, young Black girls are beautiful and worthy of self-love.
Since its creation in 2010, Pretty Brown Girl has been recognized by NBC as one of the top seven organizations that empower Black and brown girls. They create leadership programs, instill pride and confidence in young women of color and encourage them to use their skills to become engaged in their communities.
Donate to Pretty Brown Girl here.
5. The I Project
Invest in communities, not police.
When you visit The I Project’s YouTube page, that is what’s on display on their header. In one succinct sentence, it encapsulates the organization’s mission: using art and activism to combat gun violence.
It was founded in 2016 by activist and poet Eva Maria Lewis. She started The I Project because she wanted to provide communities with access to many things denied to them, such as education and grocery stores. The I Project is aimed at creating equity in communities, not just through activism, but through intersectionality and providing education to marginalized communities.
Donate to The I Project here.
The #SayHerName Campaign was created by The African American Policy Forum (AAPF) in 2014 to bring awareness to the stories and names of Black girls and women who have been killed and victimized by police brutality. The campaign began on May 20, 2015, when the AAPF held a service in Union Square called #SayHerName: A Vigil in Memory of Black Women and Girls Killed by the Police. Some of those present at the vigil were the relatives of Miriam Carey, Shantel Davis, Kayla More, Rekia Boyd and Michelle Cusseaux; other activists and attendees also showed up to the event.
The initiative also provides financial aid to the families who lost their loved ones. They do not just focus on what caused their death but memorialize the person that they were when they lived.
Donate to the Say Her Name Campaign here.
“Imagine. Build. Create.”
Black Girls Code was launched in April 2011. Their goal is to introduce girls of color to technology and entertainment by teaching them game design and programming.
To reach out to the underrepresented communities they serve, they host workshops, coding lessons and teach programming to underprivileged girls, giving them the opportunity to pursue their aspirations in the technological field. Since 2013, they’ve founded seven institutions, done work in Johannesburg, South Africa, taught 3,000 students and are now working to expand to more cities in the United States.
Donate to Black Girls Code here.
My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) was launched in February 2014 by President Barack Obama. As stated on the program’s main page, My Brother’s Keeper works to “…address persistent opportunity gaps facing boys and young men of color to ensure all youth can reach their full potential.”
The program also works with cities and other foundations that introduce youth to mentoring and networking opportunities. As a group, MBK aims for all youth to receive a quality education, to feel safe from crime and to have the option to pursue higher education. In 2017, the group became an initiative of the Obama Foundation, where its focus became creating safe communities for young men of color where they are afforded the opportunities they deserve.
Donate to My Brother’s Keeper here.
The Know Your Rights Camp is a youth program started by Colin Kaepernick that works to educate marginalized youth. It’s a camp that, according to its website, is “a free campaign for youth to raise awareness on higher education, self-empowerment, and instruction to properly interact with law enforcement in various scenarios.”
In response to the pandemic, the camp launched the Know Your Rights COVID-19 Relief Fund to help Black communities disproportionately harmed by the coronavirus; on the page dedicated to the fund, it has statistics about the death rate of the virus as well as how structural racism has affected the Black community during the pandemic. It takes its camps to different cities such as Miami, Baltimore and Atlanta, where 98% of participants show an increased understanding of their rights. Participating in this camp empowers Black youth to not just believe in themselves, but believe that they are worthy of being protected, valued and safe.
Donate to the Know Your Rights Camp here.
Founded by Bryan Stevenson in 1989, The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) is focused on ending racial inequality and mass incarceration. As a private organization, it helps formerly incarcerated people reintegrate into society and gives legal representation to those who were given unfair sentences, abused in prisons or wrongly convicted.
During its time as an organization, it has added over 150 people to its staff, including lawyers, administrators and managers. Its lawyers have helped their clients by overturning wrongful convictions and exposing misconduct and racial biases. Aside from legal representation, EJI works to provide public education about the history of racial injustice and criminal justice reform.
Donate to the Equal Justice Initiative here.
If you are able, you should support the causes of these organizations by making a donation. They, as well as a multitude of others, work toward creating a better future for Black youth.