EMEAC SUSO's Youth team interns at Project South’s CPI

August 18, 2011

YEA Team members Siwatu Salama-Ra, Will Copeland,
Noel Frye, Knydra Jefferson, Paris Smith, Sharmin Salaam
and Roger Boyd at Project South in Atlanta
ATLANTA – A group of six Detroit youth participating in the EMEAC Stand Up Speak Out Program’s Youth Educators Alliance (YEA) attended the Community Power Institute (CPI) internship program sponsored by Project South in Atlanta last month. The YEA Team, led by SUSO Youth Coordinator William Copeland and Youth Leader Siwatu Salama-Ra, attended four weeks of intensive workshop training based on Project South experience and curriculum for young people ages 13-22.
The trip was excellent,” Copeland said. “Project South welcomed us fully and the YEA youth immediately stepped into various roles of facilitation, outreach, and discussion.  Towards the end of the trip, Project South was hosting a youth people's movement assembly on educational justice and the YEA youth were able to participate to a great extent in the planning for the assembly.”
The YEA team making the trip south consisted of Noelle Frye, Roger Boyd, Knydra Jefferson, Paris Smith and EMEAC Americorps intern, Sharmin Salaam. At the CPI, the group addressed the weaknesses of public and private school systems by engaging other young people with relevant history. They also learned community organizing skills in hopes of developing a new generation of leadership prepared for active participation in their communities and in organizing to bridge the generation gap.
CPI interns were responsible for variety of tasks related to the CPI; including research, popular education, facilitation, and development work. They also gained public speaking, community outreach/networking, administrative and grassroots fundraising skills.
The goals that were set for the Young Educators Alliance visit to Atlanta's Project South CPI and experience working along side one of our partner youth organization that suffer from many similar community issues that we face in the city of Detroit, and problem solve,” said the 20-year-old Salama-Ra. “The most rewarding part was to witness the CPI youth and Detroit’s YEA introduce "Educational Justice" to the community. We conducted dialogue around what is being taught in the schools and asked whether it's beneficial for the students to live their lives the way they are meant to be lived.
“Everything was youth led, from the planning to the actual facilitation of the workshops. Youth did everything from the registration table to the ending comment, and the serving of the food.”
While the trip fulfilled EMEAC’s goal of giving the YEA youth organizers an “out of the box” experience that allowed them a new view on youth organizing and social justice activism, Copeland said he is looking forward to seeing Detroit youth play a greater role in shaping the city’s future.
“I am hoping to bring back more techniques for youth leadership and youth organizing,” he said. “I hope that YEA in particular can become even more expressive of youth culture. I hope to bring the organizing of Up South Down South to EMEAC so that our whole organization can make effective alliances & partnerships with Southern social justice organizations. Lastly, I hope that participating in such a large project with as much energy as the Education Justice PMA can raise the ambitions of our youth towards bigger and bolder organizing efforts.”
For her part, Salama-Ra said she felt the group came away from Atlanta inspired and that the experience exceeded expectations.
“The trip to Atlanta was such a big success due to the meeting of the different young people who are passionate in creating a new world, a new system,” she said. “When closing the assembly, few of the ending comments between the Up South- Down south partnership was to take advantage of the resources we have to assist in making our jobs easier.
“We learned about writing proposals in our behalf, and looking towards long term goals. We learned about possibly founding our own schools that express the goals that came out from the Youth CPI PMA. We talked about principles from the students Rights Bill, and teachers having classes that touch on the different learning styles students have in supporting the goal of a full 100% graduation rate. These are just a few ideas coming from Detroit's YEA team and Atlanta's project South. This would be considered a next step and an over all goal for change in our school systems.