Civic Action

Get to Know This Fall’s Opportunity Youth Forum Speakers

October 3, 2018  • Monique Miles

The fall convening of the Opportunity Youth Forum, which highlights learning best practices, collaboration-building efforts, and lifting up national youth leadership and voice, will take place from October 8 to 10 at the Aspen Institute campus in Aspen, Colorado.

The Opportunity Youth Forum works on innovative, place-based, collaborative solutions to reconnect the nearly 5 million opportunity youth – 16- to 24-year-olds who are out of work and school – in the United States. The Forum for Community Solutions established the Opportunity Youth Forum (formerly known as the Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund) in 2012 with the understanding that investing in young people now will have a profound impact on future generations of children and families.

A new face: Institute CEO and President Dan Porterfield

Aspen Institute CEO and president Dan Porterfield will deliver the keynote address on Tuesday, October 9. (You can livestream the address from home.) Dan will share his reflections on how to lead institutions during a time of national transition and speak about setting a vision that centers equity and justice. He also will speak about cross-system and -sector leadership and offer guidance on the transformative power of collaboration to drive systems change. As a leader with a focus on equity and justice, we are excited Dan is taking the stage to share how these themes have informed his career.

Following the keynote address, Dan will join in a conversation with two national opportunity youth leaders: Shawnice Jackson of Opportunity Youth United and Jamiel Alexander of the Forum for Community Solutions. Both Shawnice and Jamiel have been with the movement since the inception of the Opportunity Youth Forum and are recognized for their national leadership and advocacy efforts. The dialogue will address the role of inter-generational partnerships (with an emphasis on the role of youth leaders) in achieving better outcomes for all, especially our country’s most marginalized young adults. The panelists also will speak about the importance of self-care while leading. Learn more about Shawnice and Jamiel in this blog post.

Following this session, we will have an array of exciting plenary and interactive sessions led by community-based experts from across the OYF network along with other leaders in the opportunity youth field. The overarching goals of this convening include highlighting the work of youth leaders, continuing to build momentum for system change efforts with youth leadership and expertise at the center, and deepening our solidarity with other equity- and justice-based movements. For more details, see the full agenda.

Sessions on movement building, racial equity, the fight for justice and more

We also will be welcoming to the stage Professor Shawn Ginwright, a leading national expert on African American youth, youth activism, and youth development. Dr. Ginwright is an Associate Professor of Education in the Africana Studies Department and Senior Research Associate for the Cesar Chavez Institute for Public Policy at San Francisco State University. Carlos Rojas from Youth on Board will join Dr. Ginwright during this session. Carlos is a former national and local youth organizer who will share his perspective on the role of healing in training and supporting youth organizers.

Also participating in this plenary will be Sheryl Evans Davis, Executive Director of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, who has worked extensively to provide services to historically underserved communities across San Francisco, and Chekemma Fulmore-Townsend, CEO of Philadelphia Youth Network, who has expertise in social work and using data to improve adult and youth workforce programs. This plenary will investigate the relevancy of the community-centered healing framework in organizing for political power with an emphasis on the role of youth.

Our closing plenary will feature critically acclaimed journalist and author Jeff Chang and renowned civil rights activist Judith Browne Dianis. Jeff has been pivotal in conversations around race and equity and is currently the Vice President of Narrative, Arts, and Culture at the racial justice organization, Race Forward. Judith is the executive director of the Advancement Project who has worked to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline and used civil rights litigation and advocacy for voter rights, education, housing, and employment.

Two youth leaders, Ryan Dalton, Program Coordinator at the New Orleans EMPLOY collaborative and member of Opportunity Youth United, and Kimberly Pham, Collaborative Youth Leader for Project U-Turn and a member of Opportunity Youth United, will join in this conversation around Jeff’s book We Gon’ Be Alright: Notes on Race and Resegregation. Participants will touch upon the role of narrative change and cultural strategy in organizing for equity and justice, particularly by the most vulnerable youth and communities.

A big milestone for the network

Next month when we meet, we mark a tremendous milestone: It will be the twelfth time we’ve convened. While there is still much work to be done to create pathways for opportunity youth, we are proud and thankful for our partners and collaborators for helping us reach this accomplishment. We look forward to continuing to work collaboratively to build the power and influence of marginalized communities and youth.

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