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Presenting the Center for Health Equity’s Racial Equity Youth Council

REYC group image

The Racial Equity Youth Council, also known as the Despite Oppression Pursue Excellence Youth Council (D.O.P.E.Y.C.), is a group of 10 young people between the ages of 16-19 with the goal of empowering our community by advancing racial equity. As a strategic initiative of the Center for Health Equity, in partnership with Mayor’s SummerWorks and YouthBuild Louisville, we have taken on the ambitious, yet necessary goal of creating action plans over the course of seven weeks that address structural barriers faced by young people who are not in school and unemployed.

Top Row: Quintez Brown, Clara Kinnett, Stephanie Solis, Jada Peden, Mahogany Mayfield, Christian Jones
Bottom Row: Immaya Hughes, Lisandra Plana, JoDae Whitfield, Isabella Contarino, Roxana Castilo

The infamous “separate but equal” doctrine has served as a foundational block in our society for policies and practices that greatly impact people today. In order to implement equitable change, we have a curriculum of engaging in open dialogue, analyzing documentaries and discussing articles while also interacting with guest speakers. This curriculum has enabled us to enhance our awareness of mass incarceration, food injustice, gentrification, redlining, and other forms of racial inequities that hinder our community’s potential. 

 In particular, reading and analyzing articles - from the Washington Post to excerpts by James Baldwin - have given insight into the ways the foundation of this country is flawed. This was particularly apparent in the works of Frederick Douglass and Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The documentaries that we have watched have touched on the roots of mass incarceration and how laws, practices, and institutions have built up and continue to economically thrive off of the imprisonment of people of color. Along with learning about this form of racial inequity through a cinematic representation, we read articles dating back to 1852, which demonstrated how this battle of racial inequity did not begin recently but that it began with the birth of our nation.

To balance our sometimes emotionally heavy work, we have a Tai Chi instructor come in twice a week, ensuring a holistic experience. We use Tai Chi to connect with our inner selves and rise to our greatest potential. We learn different postures and forms that help us learn how to use our bodies in the most divine and healthy way. Our class emphasizes the principles of Baba Serikali’s Tai Chi: respect, confidence, inner peace, control, harmony, self-discipline, concentration, and self-value. This reflective practice centers our focus, reminding us that this work is purpose driven.

 Our first action plan is to engage in Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR). We are using this method of research because we believe that the people who are being most impacted should have the chance to have their voices heard. Our research will focus on youth in detention services exploring the “how” and “why” when we are often only given the “what.

In our second action plan, we will conduct racial equity trainings. This training will analyze how institutional and structural racism uniquely affect youth. Participants, ideally those who work with youth, will walk away with an enhanced view for how the world works and how it intertwines with race, power dynamics, and social standing. Participants will share what they learn from attending this training through communicating with others and acting as a racial equity advocate in the community.

Through our efforts, we aspire to amplify the voices of the unheard to implement equitable change regarding underrepresented youth. Collectively, we have realized that despite oppression, our community can pursue excellence!

If you would like to learn more about the council or how racial equity can be incorporated into your work, please contact healthequity@louisvilleky.gov or call the Center for Health Equity at 502.574.6616.

We want to thank the youth participating in the Racial Equity Youth Council (REYC) for contributing this article. The REYC is organized by the Center for Health Equity (CHE), which is based in the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health & Wellness and directed by Brandy N. Kelly Pryor, PhD. Dr. Kelly Pryor is an Assistant Professor in the School of Public Health and Information Sciences and Director for CHE. The REYC is being coordinated by incoming Pan African Studies graduate student, Ms. Mahogany Mayfield, and Dr. Aishia Brown, SPHIS postdoctoral fellow. For more information about the REYC, please contact Dr. Brandy Kelly Pryor or the Center for Health Equity.



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