STAY Project Family,
We are overjoyed to announce that at the beginning of August we hired Mekyah Davis, 24, of Big Stone Gap, VA to be our STAY Project Co-Coordinator! Mekyah will work alongside our current coordinator, Lou Murrey, to move STAY’s work and grow the Black Appalachian Young & Rising program. This hiring marks a moment of growth and transition for the STAY Project that the steering committee has been thinking very intentionally about for many months.
Back in January, when we began thinking about Lou’s transition out of STAY in 2021, the Steering Committee and current STAY Project Coordinator discussed several options for transitioning staff. We utilized consensus practice throughout the process, each sharing what we imagined ‘living our values’ would mean and look like in a hiring process. The Steering Committee decided that hiring a Black co-coordinator who could hold the work of Black Appalachian Young and Rising (BAYR) and increase the STAY Project’s staff capacity would be the best option to increase the sustainability of our work and to live into our commitment of supporting Black youth leadership in Appalachia.
After discussing the possibilities of releasing a job description, calling for applications, and assembling a separate hiring committee the Steering Committee decided that these processes did not align with our values, that these strategies rely on the myth of meritocracy to be “fair” when we know that most processes of hiring and resource distribution are based on relationships and connections.
Because we believe that young people in Appalachia who have demonstrated commitment to cultivating and leading liberatory work should be supported, flanked, and paid for their labor, the Steering Committee decided to hire Mekyah Davis as a STAY Project co-coordinator. Through his commitment to the STAY Project Steering Committee and as a founding member of Black Appalachian Young and Rising Mekyah Davis has demonstrated again and again that he is the leader we should support.
Finally, it was important to us that we not only hire Mekyah as co-coordinator but also make sure he has every tool and resource available for him to step into his power as a leader. We have been intentional about creating a model for staff transition that sets young people up to succeed. Over the next year Lou and Mekyah will work together to develop the co-coordinator positions and Lou will have time to pass along the experience and knowledge they gained over the last three years to Mekyah before they transition out of STAY next year.
We are excited for the ways Lou and Mekyah will work with STAY’s steering committee and members to respond to our political and cultural moment while fostering resiliency and relationships with young people in Appalachia for the long haul.
Solidarity & kinship,
Jules, Aria, Mabel, FJ, Nina, Sav, Brad, Mekyah, & Lou
A Message from the STAY Project Co-Coordinators:
A note from Mekyah on their new position as Co-Coordinator:
When Lou took the position as Coordinator, one of their priorities and a strategic priority for STAY that was named was the need to uplift and flank Black youth. Throughout the past two years, they have worked tirelessly to live into that commitment. I am thankful for the friendship that Lou and I have developed but more than that, I am thankful to be working with someone who has shown to me their deep commitment to fighting for youth and making space for young leaders to step up into their ability. I am honored to be assuming the role as Co-Coordinator of STAY. As long as I am in this position, I am committed to building a beautiful community with the young people within our region. I am committed to the process of building up strong leaders and transitioning leadership. Though I don’t have the same shared identity as all of our members, I will always uplift, support, and fight with and for young black women and LGBTQIA+ youth. Lastly and most importantly, I am a commitment to making space for black youth and prioritizing our joy, fire, and collective voices while we work on transforming our worlds. - Mekyah
A note from Lou about hiring Mekyah:
I am so excited to welcome Mekyah Davis to work alongside me as the STAY Project Co-coordinator. From the time I met Mekyah at a Huddle House in Big Stone Gap, through his tenure on the STAY Project steering committee, I have witnessed his hunger for knowledge, his love for his people, and his commitment to liberation shape him into an incredible young leader. I know that he will carry the responsibility of this position with the fire, grace, and humility it requires. In this year of uncertainty and uprising when it is more important than ever to know who your people are, I am honored to call Mekyah my co-conspirator and my friend. I feel immensely lucky that I have this opportunity to work alongside him during my last year with STAY to create life-giving spaces for young people in Appalachia. - Lou
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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