YPAR Network Kick-off with Kai M. Green!
Youthprise’s Action Research Team (ART) is collaborating with youth on the ground, caught in the intersections of various inequalities, strategizing to build creative and innovative solutions to the problems we cannot solve without them. Youth Participatory Action Research is a framework that ART uses to highlight and inclusively support the leadership and richness of knowledge of youth most impacted by disparities. Partnering with Juxtaposition Arts, Voices for Racial Justice, El Colegio, Network for the Development of Children of African Descent, Macalester College, and the KAYSC program in the Science Museum of Minnesota, Youthprise is spearheading a process to engage youth in research design for social change.
Kai M. Green will be leading our YPAR network kick-off, starting our conversation by bringing arts into the production of knowledge. He will also be a keynote panelist at the Social Justice Education Fair. Kai M. Green is a writer, scholar, poet, filmmaker, feminist, and whatever else it takes to make a new and more just world. For the past six years, he lived in LA building locally with Black LGBT communities. Through writing and organizing, Kai has become a strong, visible voice in the Black Trans community and in the LGBT community generally. His goal is not simply to be a voice for the people; his goal is to always be making space and room for others to share their own truths and find their own voices. As a leader, teacher, and scholar, he is committed to raising consciousness around self-care, self-love, sexual health, emotional health, sexual and state violence, healthy masculinities, and Black feminism. He believes that writing and story telling are revolutionary acts. Kai is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow in Sexuality Studies and African American Studies at Northwestern University in Chicago
A conversation between Youth & Community Action Research Manager, Fayise Abrahim and Kai M. Green
What support did you need to succeed as a young person?
There are the basic needs like food and shelter that every young person needs. A sense of stability in home life is key. Opportunities to take risks and be creative are also essential to success. Quality educational settings are key. I was fortunate enough to attend some to the best schools in the country and those experiences allowed me to grow in ways that I could have not done had I not been given the chance to attend these elite institutions. I think that everyone should receive this kind of quality education; it shouldn’t be based on where you live, how much money your parents have, or even the scholarship for which you are eligible.
I think that classrooms today, especially public schools in low income areas, do not care about developing the critical intellect of young minds and that is horrible message to send to the future generations. Mentorship is also important. I had a lot of mentors along the way and I continue to collect them. I learned early on to seek out mentorship, but this is a skill that is developed over time. I have learned that students in more elite institutions are better able to advocate for themselves and they ask for more, while students who come from low income backgrounds often feel like they don’t have the right to ask for anything. In short, the support I needed included institutions and individuals who all came together to help usher me along the pathway toward my visions and dreams as they change and develop.
What advice do you have for youth of color and queer youth to feel validated as researchers and producers of knowledge?
If you are looking for validation, the first place you need to look is yourself. You need to know that no one can validate you like you can. We aren’t taught to value our own intellect. Most of us sit in classrooms where the teachers and professors look like someone other than you, and that can make you believe that in order for your thoughts to be legit, you need this figure of authority to authorize it, but you don’t. The most important work that you can start to do now is to be self-affirming. This is not to say that you become egotistical, but rather that you remain grounded in the certainty that you are here, you are valuable, and what you bring to the world is so necessary for now. Remain open to being challenged and learning new things. Don’t ever let anyone make you feel like what you have is not enough. Surround yourself by positive people, people who share your vision, people who challenge you to do better. Collaborate with people. Always ask yourself, “What are my intentions?” If you forget why you are doing a thing, then you need to take time and remember the vision and the stakes. We need you.
What are the creative ways you produce knowledge?
There are so many ways of producing knowledge. Knowledge is another way of saying information. How do you create information? Or perhaps it should be how do you gather information? Listen. Listen to people’s stories and ask questions. Every life has a history and it has something to tell us. Make films. Write poems. Sing songs. Meet new people. Read books. Enjoy life. Those are all ways of producing knowledge.