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In the past, Advocates for Youth’s youth activists have gathered every year in Washington, D.C. for an intense weekend of training and learning to be strong organizers in their communities. The training is followed by a day on Capitol Hill, where youth activists visit their elected officials in Congress and urge them to support policies that help young people make informed and responsible decisions about their sexual and reproductive health. Youth activists leave fully equipped with the skills and tools they need to organize for change. By joining an Advocates for Youth council, youth activists become a part of a wider Youth Activist Network of over 130 activists around the country.

In light of COVID-19 and deep-rooted injustices that continue to be exposed, we believe that this is the time to further politicize, deepen and engage our base of youth through grassroots organizing. The Youth Activist Institute (YAI) will shift to a virtual platform, spread out before and after the conference weekend, and incorporate similar components such as organizing training, guest speakers, unique workshops, and a lobbying opportunity. Youth activists will emerge from the Institute with a vision, tangible demands and a strategic plan to organize their communities for sexual health and LGBTQ rights, reproductive justice and collective liberation. 

YAI 2020 Goals 

  • Train incoming youth activists with the tools they need to be strong organizers in their communities 
  • Create community spaces for youth to bond and belong to a larger activist collective 
  • Build the political power of youth who are ready to organize and lead the reproductive justice movement

Rising Through Our Roots, Redefining Our Futures

Young people are at the heart of many reproductive justice movements. This year’s Youth Activist Institute will explore the histories and legacies of leaders who came before us, create space for learning, reflection and storytelling, and support youth in organizing towards the world they’re dreaming of. Youth will emerge from this experience with everything needed to determine and shape their own freedom together.

Keynote Speakers

Keynote speaker talks will be livestreamed on our YouTube

Friday:  Elle Hearns

Elle Hearns is the Founder and Executive Director of The Marsha P. Johnson Institute. Elle is an accomplished writer whose work has been published by The CUNY Law Review and Ebony magazine. Her work has been profiled and featured by Posture Magazine, CNN, MTV, The New York Times,Time, Democracy Now, Fusion, Essence Magazine, Telesur TV and The Washington Post. Prior to founding MPJI, Elle served as a founding strategic partner to the BLM Global network where she also formerly worked as the interim organizing director. She previously served on the board for Million Hoodies Movement for Justice and is the lead advisor to The Tamir Rice Afrocentric Cultural Center. Elle splits her time between her hometown of Columbus,Ohio and New York City.

Sunday:  Bianca I. Laureano, PHDhc, CSES, MA

Bianca I. Laureano is an award-winning educator, curriculum writer, facilitator, and sexologist. She is a Foundress of the Women of Color Sexual Health Network (WOCSHN), The LatiNegrxs Project, ANTE UP! Virtual Freedom Professional Development School for Justice Workers, and hosts LatinoSexuality.com. She has written several curricula that focus on communities of color: What’s the REAL DEAL about Love and Solidarity? (2015) and Communication MixTape: Speak On It Vol 1. (2017) and wrote the sexual and reproductive justice discussion guide for the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene published in 2018. Bianca has been on the board of CLAGS, the LGBTQ Center at CUNY, The Black Girl Project, and  SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective. She resides in Oakland, CA. She is the Lead Educator for the Netflix film Crip Camp (2020) and is leading the efforts to create a curriculum that is rooted in disability justice practice, self-determination, and social-emotional learning competences! She received an honorary PhD for her work of justice, equity, and inclusion in the US sexuality field May 2020.

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.

Our Mission, Vision, and Legacy

Our Programs

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 Womxn of Color 4 Reproductive Justice Council (YWOC4RJ)

The Young Womxn of Color for Reproductive Justice Leadership Council (YWOC4RJLC) is a group of 14-24 year old young womxn 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 womxn 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.

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