The Gem Project is home to the next leaders of social change, youth changemakers committed to social justice and equity for all. Over the last seven weeks, the Gem Fellow consisting of high school and college students worked together to address systemic racism exacerbated by COVID-19 in the sectors of health, education, and criminal justice. The youth advocates used what they learned and acquired to diligently create issue briefs, demands, artwork, and service initiatives as a call to action for change.
Throughout this summer’s seven-week process, our fellows simultaneously honed their leadership skills and community organizing through peer-based learning, facilitation, and learning modules with the Gem Project Online Institute amassing over 50+ hours of professional development. Our youth advocates taught different aspects of community organizing, from identifying community problems to setting demands. The Gem Project or the “Project for the Geniuses” as Augustine Egwuonwu notes, have given “youth organizers the opportunity to know and understand more about social and community well-being, and be able to promote justice, good health systems, and high-quality education within minority communities.” Egwuonwu is a high school fellow, attending Weequahic High School based in Newark, New Jersey.
With 40+ fellows enrolled and about 30 involved in drafting briefs and/or contributing to their youth-designed virtual reality museum, a two-person logistic Ad-Hoc committee was formed to represent college and high school, respectively. Led by Faith Christian and Kynise Dixon, our fellows ensured that various moving parts were always youth driven and all decisions was confirmed by every member of the cohort.
For the first 5 weeks of summer, our fellows:
- Host a youth rally to address structural racism as it impacts the Black community across education, health and justice. Guests and decision makers across sectors were invited to talk, who included: BYHAZE, vocal artist and organizer; Dr. Shereef Elnahal, CEO & President of University Hospital; Councilwoman LaMonica McIver, council member of Central Ward in Newark, NJ; Dr. Chris T. Pernell, Chief Strategic Integration and Health Equity Officer at University Hospital; Terrell A. Blount, MPA, Motivational Speaker and Activist; Mia Legaspi-Cavin, MA, Criminal Justice Reform professional; A’Dorian Murray-Thomas (Youngest Elected), member of Newark School Board of Education and CEO/Founder of SHE Wins, Inc.; and Tyneisha Gibbs, founder of 144th & Vine, LLC and White Riley Peterson Policy Fellow.
- Develop 7 issue briefs exploring structural racism within the Black community, across education, health and justice.
- Create art activism pieces detailing Black experiences as they are today vs. what could happen in the future with an afrofuturism framework. Art pieces are for sale and 100% of proceeds of art sold will go directly to the youth artist.
- Design a virtual reality museum
- Participate in local service days on 8/7 and 8/14 in partnership with the Barat Foundation.
Logistic Ad-Hoc Committee:
- Faith Christian (College Fellow – Host/Logistics Team)
- Kynise Dixon (High School Fellow – Host/Logistics Team)