“This was my proudest moment as a youth worker,” reflected J.T. Evans, Teen Technology Coordinator at Hope Community.
That moment started with “about 20 to 30 young people on a Zoom call after George Floyd was killed, sharing their thoughts and feelings” reported J.T.
After the calls, three young women from Hope Community’s youth programs, “really were thinking about what they wanted to do to get their voices heard.”
Those three — Imelda, Weslyn and Kennedi — were joined by about 15 other youth, and together they conceptualized, planned and executed Sit In To Breathe a youth-led day of peaceful protest at the Minnesota State Capitol.
Several thousand young people from across the Twin Cities joined their calls for social justice and change that day.
“It was all youth led,” noted J.T. “That’s what I’m so proud of…usually it would be Hope Community running an event, but not this time. They organized all of it. They decided who’s talking, who’s going on next, which youth are speaking.”
“It was incredibly powerful,” added Nakara White, a youth program specialist with Hope Community.
Local media covered the event. More than 15,000 responded to Sit In To Breathe social media posts. The event’s impact reached well beyond Minnesota. “I was living in Florida at the time and I heard about this event on social media and saw my friends were at this rally,” recalled Nakara.
Even amidst a summer of protests and rallies, Sit In To Breathe stood out for the unique youth voice it added to calls for change.
For the young people at Hope Community, the ripple effects continue. “They are passionate about using technology to express themselves,” explained J.T., “this was a real-world way for them to translate the skills they learn through the Teen Tech Center into a powerful empowerment tool.”
Weslyn, one of the organizers of Sit In To Breathe, concurs. “The opportunities Hope Community introduces us to is greatly appreciated,” she beamed. “I feel like I owe a good part of my identity and my accomplishments to the programs at Hope; they helped make me into who I am today.”
Other youth were similarly moved to action. One wrote a song and produced a video inspired by the event. That music video was named “Best Song” by the Clubhouse Network’s Reach Music Festival and won “Best of Fest” at the Minnesota State High School Film Festival. Another produced a news-style documentary about the day that earned “Best Documentary” at the Minnesota State High School Film Festival.
In May, Nakara coordinated Black Girl Joy, an in-person celebration honoring the girls who organized Sit In To Breathe and lifting up their talents and voices. “It’s exciting to see who these young people can be when you give them the room to express their gifts,” Nakara affirmed.