Read below for reflections by the New York City Programs Director, Kimberley Moore, as she writes about her experience with the NYC SSLC staff.

NYC Programming has lasted in some form for 6 years/since the organization’s pilot program (which was also based in NYC). Note: Kim joined the NYC team as the NYC Programs Director shortly before the 2019 COVID pandemic. During the lifetime of SSLC, NYC program direction has been held by a series of talented individuals. Kim reflects on her experiences and how the NYC team has grown over time.

The NYC Programming was conceived and facilitated through collective process and collaboration. Our programming strived to keep restorative approaches to relationships with young people at the center. Whenever we strayed from our planned path or encountered conflict, across iterations of the office leadership and staffing, one thing that made our NYC office shine was the depth of intention and commitment folks felt to working toward restoring the relationships young Black and Brown people had with themselves, each other, and their communities at large. There were so many factors that complicated that work, but ultimately folks’ intentions and commitment in NYC was grounded in a deep passion for that form of healing justice.

In my tenure, programming initiatives and the approach to them were generated through a collective process that invited the younger people in our community into the center of discussion. Prior to 2021, young people staffing our office felt a little unsure of their leadership. Inviting them to the center of our work and using our voices to draw attention to theirs really bolstered their leadership capacity, which bolstered our office’s overall strength. The pandemic also had a big impact on our programming. Pre-pandemic, all of our programming was in person, inside different carceral facilities, working directly with young people who were removed from their communities. During the pandemic, when safety regulations interrupted this connection, we pivoted to coordinating online offerings. With support from our new Comms Director, Acacia Rodriguez, we used our communications platforms to continue conversations we would have been having with young people in person under safer circumstances. This was particularly key in our NYC office, because NY State had much stricter covid regulations than Florida. 

When we couldn’t engage directly with young people incarcerated like we had pre-pandemic, we hired systems-impacted Black and Brown young people from NYC (young people who were directly impacted by the carceral system). Some of the strategies we used to remain grounded during pandemic were based in empowering and building with our community. Some key takeaways are:

– We created opportunities in collaboration with them; working with them to sculpt meaningful work that spoke directly to their unique gifts and desired areas for growth 

– We ensured these young folks worked in direct partnership with more practiced folks on our team to build mentoring relationships whenever possible 

– We built relationships with other collectives, coalitions and organizations who were invested in building and expanding similar opportunities for young Black and Brown people impacted by mass incarceration 

We could not have done this without all of the Black and Brown youth born and raised in NYC who started their leadership/organizing journeys with us – who shared their gifts, writing in particular, with us during a tumultuous time – I’d especially like to shout out Afia Blackwood-Foster, Deja Jones, Imani Brown, Gabriela Ramos, and Anique Edwards.

To all of the youth that we have collaborated with, we thank you for trusting us and providing us with your brilliance, dedication, and intentionality over the years during NYC Programming. We hope to continue seeing you do great things and inspire those around you!