We’re excited to welcome young activists from around the country to the 2021 Youth Activist Institute! This year’s theme is From Margin to Center – Coming Together For Our Health, Rights, and Justice. In this moment of multiple layers of crisis, violence, and marginalization, we are coming together to train and prepare you to build and take radical political action in the upcoming year. Over 4 days online, we hope you will connect with one another across the 10 councils in our Youth Activist Network, receive training in grassroots organizing for change, hear from speakers around a variety of topics connected to our work, and lobby members of Congress to make tangible change.
We selected this year’s theme as a nod to intersectional feminist activists who came before us, and to uplift our worth and value as marginalized people. At Advocates, we know the unique and valuable contributions young people provide to movement building for our bodies, lives and futures. We stress the importance of solidarity with one another while celebrating the diversity of our unique lived experiences. To end all forms of patriarchal violence and build a world where reproductive justice is achieved, we must act now to build the momentum to fight for a better world.
We know we must pull together all the resources, people, and organized groups on our side to demand what’s right. We are everything we need, and we are the people we’re looking for. We hope the 2021 Youth Activist Institute will support and strengthen your work in your communities, and deepen our collective commitment to organizing for all youth to have what they need to survive and thrive.
YAI 2021 Goals
- Train incoming youth activists with the tools they need to be strong organizers in their communities
- Create community spaces for youth to connect with other activists and belong to a larger activist collective
- Build the political power of young people who are ready to organize and lead the reproductive justice movement
2021’s Featured Speaker is Georgia State Representative Park Cannon!
Rep. Park Cannon is one of two openly queer lawmakers in the Georgia General Assembly and its youngest. She represents House District 58 which encompasses a diverse cross-section of Atlanta.
The Democratic lawmaker recently made national headlines when she was unlawfully arrested and removed from the Georgia Capitol after she knocked on the door to the Republican governor’s office during his signing of SB 202, a restrictive law that limits voting rights in the state. Republicans rushed the bill through both chambers of the legislature a few hours before he signed it into law. It has been harshly criticized nationwide for disenfranchising Black voters, is being challenged in court and is being dubbed Jim Crow 2.0.
Rep. Cannon champions a range of social justice causes and her legislative efforts focus on education, jobs, and health care. Rep. Cannon seeks to stop the erosion of affordability for basic needs which she believes are the foundations of social stability. She also devotes her legislative work to protecting Georgia’s most vulnerable citizens: women and children, the elderly and the LGBTQ+ community. She has worked to address maternal mortality rates and the HIV epidemic in Georgia, housing affordability and extending protections to victims of family violence and sexual assault.
Rep. Cannon attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Hispanic Linguistics and a Bachelor of Arts in Linguistics, and minored in Women’s and Gender Studies. During her time at UNC Chapel Hill, Rep. Cannon was named a Camões Award Recipient and inducted into the Order of The Old Well. She also participated in the Harvard Kennedy School of Government’s Executive Education State and Local Government program. She was named by the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) as a Bohnett LGBTQ Leaders Fellow and studied police accountability.
About Advocates for Youth
Advocates for Youth is a national nonprofit which partners with youth leaders, adult allies, and youth-serving organizations to advocate for policies and champion programs that recognize young people’s rights to honest sexual health information; accessible, confidential, and affordable sexual health services; and the resources and opportunities necessary to create sexual health equity for all youth. Advocates for Youth envisions a society that views sexuality as normal and healthy and treats young people with respect. Advocates’ vision is informed by its core values of Rights. Respect. Responsibility.
Youth Programs at the Youth Activist Institute
Abortion Out Loud
Abortion Out Loud, formerly the 1 in 3 Campaign, harnesses the power of storytelling, grassroots organizing, leadership development, and policy advocacy to end abortion stigma and strengthen support for young people's access to abortion. Activists leading the Abortion Out Loud project in their community host abortion speakouts, lead public education campaigns, and work with campus and local officials to strengthen young people's access to abortion services.
Engaging Communities around HIV Organizing
Through ECHO, Advocates recruits, trains and supports a cohort of young people living with HIV to serve as leaders in the fight to end HIV stigma and criminalization. ECHO leaders recognize HIV’s disparate impact on young people of color, including Black and Latino YMSM and trans youth of color. Members use social media campaigns, peer education, storytelling, and media outreach to raise awareness of the interconnection between HIV disparity, racism, homophobia, and transphobia and advocate for the inclusion of youth most impacted by HIV in the planning, implementation, and evaluation of programs and policies that affect their health and well being. ECHO activists contribute to My Story Out Loud, a digital storytelling campaign dedicated to uplifting the narratives of LGBTQ+ youth of color across the nation.
Free the Pill
The Free the Pill youth council is a cohort of youth organizers working to build public support for the #FreeThePill campaign, a national effort to bring a birth control pill over the counter, covered by insurance, and without age restrictions. The youth council highlights the specific barriers that young people face to getting the care they need, especially young people of color and LGBTQ young people. In addition to this national work, Free the Pill council members work to expand access to contraception at the state and local level.
International Youth Leadership Council
The International Youth Leadership Council (IYLC) at Advocates for Youth is a group of DC-based college students that work to advance youth sexual and reproductive health and rights in the global south. IYLC believes in using our unique opportunity as DC students to influence US foreign policy that directly harms people in other countries. We work to center the voices and needs of women, girls, and non-binary people in the global south, and work to #DecolonizeSRHR. IYLC members work on a wide-range of issues, including such as sexuality education, international family planning and contraceptive access, abortion, global HIV and AIDS, gender equality, harmful practices such as child marriage and female genital cutting/mutilation, gender-based violence, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights. IYLC is made up of students who have ties to or strong interests in the global south and who serve as activists, advocates, and spokespeople on sexual and reproductive health and rights policies that affect young people in low and middle-income countries.
Know Your IX
Know Your IX is a survivor- and youth-led project that aims to empower students to end sexual and dating violence in their schools. Know Your IX Organizers educate college and high school students about their rights to an education free from gender violence and discrimination. Create lasting change through training, organizing, and supporting student survivor activists in challenging their educational institutions to address violence and discrimination. And advocate for policy change at the local, state, and federal levels to ensure meaningful systemic action to end gender violence.
Muslim Youth Leadership Council
The Muslim Youth Leadership Council (MyLC) is a group of Muslim-identifying people ages 17-24 from across the country, working locally and nationally as activists, organizers, writers, leaders and more to promote LGBTQ rights, immigrant rights, and sexual and reproductive health and rights for Muslims. MyLC focuses on four main areas of work: countering Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hate, strengthening sexual health and reproductive rights for young Muslims, promoting LGBTQ rights and supporting queer Muslims, and working towards racial justice and countering anti-Blackness in our communities. MyLC advocates for the inclusion of young Muslim identifying people in Reproductive Justice programming and promotion of health and rights, creates resources for queer Muslim youth, and hosts the #MuslimAnd campaign.
Student Organizing Team
The Student Organizing Team is a cohort of high school and college students who serve as youth activists leading the reproductive justice movement at the local, state, and national level. With the support of Advocates for Youth, they run strategic issue-based campaigns to bring material improvements to young people’s sexual health and rights at their schools. Some of their campaigns for change in their communities include organizing for free menstrual products, free condoms, gender-neutral restrooms, and other issues in the fight for comprehensive sex education, contraceptive access, abortion access, LGBTQ health and rights, and HIV prevention.
YouthResource Leadership Program (YouthResource)
YouthResource Leadership Program is designed by and for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) young people of color. YouthResource members advocate around LGBTQ health and rights issues on college campuses, in their communities, and at the state and federal level. A few LGBTQ health and rights issues include expanding access to PrEP, training healthcare staff on LGBTQ inclusion, adopting gender-neutral restrooms, ensuring access to HIV treatment and care. YouthResource members contribute to My Story Out Loud, a digital storytelling campaign dedicated to uplifting the narratives of LGBTQ+ youth of color across the nation.
Young Women of Color 4 Reproductive Justice Council (YWOC4RJ)
The Young Women of Color for Reproductive Justice Leadership Council (YWOC4RJLC) is a group of 14-24 year old young women of color organizers who are working to educate, empower, and fight back against issues impacting their community through a reproductive justice lens. We aid young women of color in harnessing their power to organize to create a society free from all forms of oppression. The Leadership Council serves as the steering committee for the YWOC4RJ Collective, which has over 300 young WOC based around the US, and regularly engages the larger collective through online and offline activism opportunities.
Youth Activist Alliance Leaders
Youth Activist Alliance Leaders are youth organizers who run local or state-level grassroots campaigns for change in youth sexual health and rights and reproductive justice. By joining our Youth Activist Network (YAN), youth serve as local lead organizers for a city, county or state alliance. By co-creating bold visions in the fight for a world free from oppression, each alliance will launch their own campaign for change targeting their county and city councils, school boards, and state legislatures, and build up a powerful base of young activists committed to the movement for reproductive justice.