Dear STAY Project Community,
We hope this finds you warm and well this solstice season! We are closing in on the end of the decade, having finished out a year that has been one of the most impactful and powerful years thus far in our existence as an organization. From flanking the first-ever Black Appalachian Young & Rising gathering to creating our member support fund to building strong relationships in Alabama, in 2019 the STAY Project expanded and grew our programming and reach while remaining focused on what we do best–– creating spaces for young people to build relationships, learn, access resources and tools, and empower each other to be leaders in Appalachia.
In July, we brought youth together from across Central and Southern Appalachia in the mountains of Southwest Virginia for our 10th STAY Summer Institute.
In the heat of the late Appalachian summer we sang together, ate plenty of good food, looked at the stars, and reveled in a weekend full of laughs and love as we practiced making liberatory space.
This fall, we made history with the first ever regional gathering specifically for black youth in the Appalachian region. The Black Appalachian Young and Rising gathering was coordinated by and for black youth in the region to come together to celebrate the joy of coming together, to examine and discuss the black Appalachian identity, and most importantly to begin forming a strategy for addressing the critical lack of black youth leadership in our region. We are excited that this year we have been able to be true in our commitment to uplifting, supporting, and trusting the leadership of black youth.
We are ending this year with a renewed momentum to continue our fight for liberation into a new decade. As the STAY Project looks forward into 2020, a year in which we know Appalachia will once again come into the national spotlight, we want to be ready for what comes our way. We want to be flexible to move and change where it is necessary, we want to keep leveraging support for and flanking Black youth, we want to keep flexing our creative and cultural power through music and art, we want to keep building alliances across the South, we want to keep moving money and resources to young people trying to create change in their communities, we want to keep exercising our power to invest in ourselves, we want to keep creating revolutionary space. We cannot do this alone.
For over a decade, the love from a community that believes in youth-led work has made the STAY Project’s work possible. Thanks to y’all’s love and support in 2019, we were able to grow in ways we had only dreamed about. In 2020 we want to sustain our growth and keep dreaming about what is possible. We are asking that you please consider making a donation of $50, $100, or whatever you can afford to help STAY continue our mission of empowering youth to make their communities places they can and want to stay, as well as continuing to provide life changing spaces and opportunities for youth throughout the Appalachian region.
Invest in Appalachia's future, invest in Appalachia's present by making a gift to STAY!
Love & kinship & solidarity,
Lou Murrey & Mekyah Davis,
On behalf of the Stay Together Appalachian Youth Project
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Over the past few weeks in West Virginia, Katelyn Damron and I have been leading the Rise Up West Virginia: Youth Working Group (renaming in progress). We are the co-chairs of this working group and are being mentored by Savanna Lyons. This has been and continues to be, an amazing opportunity for us and young leadership in general. The purpose of our group is essentially leadership for young people by young people. Our group decided to work on better conditions in our local schools. This was in response to mass suspensions at Capital High School and unfair punishment. While Katelyn and I aren’t in a traditional Kanawha County Schools secondary school, we still have connections to it through friends and family. Through weekly meetings and partnership with Deanna McKinney, we went through the steps that come in activism.
First, we identified our issues with the schools. Just to name a few, these included disrespect of students, blatant disregard of student mental health, unequal application of the rules, and a student handbook so dense that it is nearly impossible to understand your rights as the student. After this, we came up with solutions we would like to see implemented in schools. These include restorative justice, disciplinary practices, fairness, respect, training, and support. We presented these proposals along with a few others at a forum with school officials. Among those in attendance, we had the ear of the superintendent and the principal of Capital High School.
Toward the end of this project, the dynamic became youth supported instead of youth lead. This led to some discontent and disappointment among our members. This was a wonderful growing experience. In the weeks following the forum, we discussed how we want adult allies to interact with us as leaders, reflection and took some time to regroup. It is always important to celebrate the end of an endeavor. We are learning facilitation tools and how to organize a group while in between projects. We would appreciate your support going forward to help better this area of Appalachia and empower young leaders.
You can reach out to me at Asbadger01@gmail.com to find out how to plug in with us or to find out what we’re doing or just to chat (my birthday is 4/28!).
- A'Nya Badger
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