IN SOLIDARITY CONVERSATIONS
The Spring and Fall of 2020 were tumultuous times across the country. In the context of COVID-19, the economic crisis, in person school closing, and the social uprisings in reaction to the murders of Breonna Taylor, Nina Pop, George Floyd and so many others, and to ongoing racism and overt white supremacy in the United States the leadership, activism, and the impacts on, and the needs of girls, young women, and gender-expansive young people of color were invisible.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic crisis, as well as the uprisings ignited by ongoing police brutality and systemic racism in the United States, Justice + Joy and the National Collaborative of Young Women’s Initiatives (National YWI) organized 15 virtual, regional, and Tribal In Solidarity Conversations.
To expand the voices heard by decision-makers tasked with addressing these critical issues, these conversations served as a safe space for girls, young women, and gender-expansive young people of color to engage in conversations across the country and help us better understand the impacts on their lives, their families, and communities.
Conversations were co-led by a group of 17 young women/young folx (In Solidarity fellows). They played a key role in co-leading this work — crafting overall strategy and format for the virtual series and working on the analysis of the conversation content for the final report in Phase 2.
From June to November 2020, more than 400 girls, young women, and gender-expansive young people of color participated in the 15 In Solidarity Conversations. These conversations provided a safe space that centered the leadership and advocacy of girls, young women, and gender-expansive young people of color.
Participants came from a total of 37 states with the five largest groups of young people coming from Texas (11.6%), California (7.4%), Tennessee (6.5%), Ohio (6.1%), and Florida (5.4%). The remaining states each accounted for between .2% to 4.9% of participants. Ages of participants ranged from 13–26, with just over half being between the ages of 13–18 (55.8%).
The majority of participants identified as “she/her/hers” (87.9%) with the remaining identifying as “they/them” (2.6%), “she/her/hers, they/ them” (2.5%), “she/her/hers, he/him/his” (1.1), “he/him/his” (1.1%), and “she/her/hers, he/him/his, they/them” (1.1%). Twenty-seven (4.7%) participants did not identify their pronouns.
Finally, Black/African American young people represented more than half of all participants (51.8%), while Latina/Latinx (16.2%), Asian/ Asian American (8.2%), Native American/American Indian/Alaskan Native (3.2%), Pacific Islander/Polynesian/Native Hawaiian (.7%), Middle Eastern/Arab American (.5%), Puerto Rican (.2%), and bi/multiracial (9.4%) young people represented a smaller percentage of participants.
An initial summary of common themes heard in the conversations was released in early 2021. In Solidarity fellows and staff analyzed the content of the conversations to determine common themes and trends that formed the basis for a final report.
On May 24, 2022, Justice + Joy released the report, At the Forefront: The Experiences of Girls, Young Women and Gender-Expansive Youth of Color as they Navigate the COVID-19 Pandemic and Social Uprising. A series of follow up conversations and research are in process for fall of 2022 to provide deeper understanding of where many of these young folks are today.
Co-Host National Collaborative of Young Women’s Initiatives.
Crittenton and NYWI extend much thanks to Alliance for Girls, Girls for Gender Equity, Center for Native American Youth at the Aspen Institute and The Cook Inlet Tribal Council for co-hosting conversations and to the many partners across the country who helped recruit participants to share their wisdom and experiences.
This project is supported in part by the Ms. Foundation for Women, The New York Women's Foundation, and a Love is Healing Grant from Grantmakers for Girls of Color.