Tell about yourself. Name, age, what you stand for, etc.
I am Stephanie Younger, a 16-year-old student activist, organizer and writer who advocates for Womanism, diversity in S.T.E.A.M, the abolition of youth prisons and gun violence prevention.
What are you doing for your community right now?
I am the founder and editor-in-chief of Black Feminist Collective, an intergenerational online collective of Womanists ages 14 and up who advocate for the liberation of all Black folks. I have interviewed Black girls and women like Havana Chapman-Edwards, Nupol Kiazolu, and Patrisse Khan-Cullors.
I help other young folks apply nonviolent conflict resolution with Richmond Youth Peace Project to reduce gun violence. I started writing spoken word poetry in response to gun violence as a whole, and white feminism. I was invited by the Afrikana Film Festival to meet Angela Davis, then I became the youngest contributor to Black Youth Project and the youngest speaker at the annual Virginia Prison Reform Rally. I spoke at the local March For Our Lives, and that led to writing articles for the ACLU of Virginia about juvenile justice reform, womanism and the significance of listening to people of color in the fight for gun violence prevention.
My advocacy for gun violence prevention and community nonviolence led to my advocacy for the abolition of youth prisons. The first march I ever helped organize was with RISE For Youth, a non partisan campaign that advocates for community alternatives to youth prisons. Every year we organize a parade centering juvenile justice reform by honoring the voices, dreams and demands of youth affected by the school-to-prison pipeline.
Why are you doing what you do?
I started doing this work in response to state-sanctioned violence and police brutality against Black people. Police violence prevention is not something that's always included in the GVP (gun violence prevention) movement's conversation and action. In my opinion, we need to address gun violence as a whole, and that means taking action with the communities disproportionately affected by that issue.
According to U.S News, Virginia has the most school-to-prison pipelines in the country, disproportionately referring Black, Latinx and disabled youth to the police. In the fourth grade, 3 teachers accused me of threatening to kill a white girl because we didn't get along, and I didn't tell anyone for at least 6 years because I internalized that anti-Black racism that takes place in the school system. They were on the verge of telling the principal, and I could have been referred to an SRO (school resource officer). I do this work because I want Black children to be seen as children.
Why is it important that we have these spaces for people of color?
Having spaces for POC is something that's very near and dear to my heart. I created Black Feminist Collective in response to the fact that I, along with many other people of color, didn't see ourselves represented in the feminist movement.
A white feminist (who I thought was my friend) didn't say or do anything while a robotics team refused to teach me how to code because I was a Black girl. Like Alice Walker who created the Womanist movement in response to anti-Black racism in the feminist movement, I created a space (Girls Who Code RVA) in a predominantly Black neighborhood, so Black girls can learn to code and not have to endure what I went through at such a young age.
Like many other youth of color, I also didn't see myself represented in the GVP movement, and faced racism working among white GVP activists. I conveyed why it's important to listen to Black youth in this fight by sharing my story on social media, town halls, and youth summits, which caught the attention of the National School Walkout, and they condemned racism in the GVP movement.
It's important because young Black folks and other youth of color need to see themselves represented in these movements.
What does your work mean to you? To others?
My work means the world to me! My work is based on personal experiences I've had as Black girl, a womanist, a youth prison abolitionist, and a GVP activist. It’s an empowering feeling that I’ve created spaces for other Black folks to share their stories, and I hope that inspires other youth of color to share their own stories too.
Where do you see your work going in the future?
In the future, I see myself community organizer who has successfully created a community where Black children are seen as children, where schools have invested in youth disproportionately affected by the school-to-prison pipeline and gun violence, by investing in mental health resources/professionals, mentors and restorative justice practices, instead of investing in metal detectors and police.