Read below for reflection from the Youth Social Entrepreneurship Programs Manager, Alexis Hyatt, and YSE Program Coordinator, Keesha Morris, as they write about their experiences with the youth in Miami.

Alexis Hyatt and Keesha Morris

Youth Social Entrepreneurship (YSE) programming was founded in 2015 in our NYC office under the executive direction of co-founder Catherine. During this program, young people partnered with local businesses and artisans to create products such as greeting cards, apparel, jewelry, and leather purses. All proceeds from the sales of these items went towards sustaining the work of SSLC.

In 2020, the YSE programming was piloted in the Miami office under the name of “Fashion for Social Change – Black Girls Design Camp”. This programming was featured in the book “Making Change” by Tina Kruse.

At SSLC, we disrupt cycles of violence by empowering youth who have experienced multitudes of criminalization using our four pillars: collective leadership, radical artistic expression, healing, and restorative justice with a goal of young Black and Brown girls blossoming into leaders with political self-awareness, creative problem-solving skills & strong ethics. As a part of our Youth Social Entrepreneurship initiatives, Design for Social Change facilitated the development of professionalism and entrepreneurship skills in our young people to create socially conscious products. 

During our Girl’s Design Camp summer intensive programs, cohorts learned about various social issues and injustices that impact their communities as they drew on their own stories and self-narratives. Program facilitators supported their storytelling and applied a critical lens on the larger system of racism and systems of oppression as they worked to identify a message that validated their lived experiences and amplified the voices of their community members. Youth participants applied all that they learned to create a product that aligned with their social message and conceptualized campaigns that raised awareness of their social issue.

Our key program components included leadership development & mentors, healing circles, social justice education and design, marketing & art education. Guest mentors from their respective fields came in to advise our young people on best practices for their product creation as well as marketing and entrepreneurship tips and tricks. Social issues we addressed included stereotypes our girls have experienced at the intersections of race &  gender, the high rates of HIV/ STDs in Miami-Dade County, and mental health & wellness. Products we produced over the years have included handbags, necklaces, greeting cards, apparel, candles, body scrubs, and even essential oils.

As the follow-up to its pilot program, the 2019 Black Girls Design Camp did not come without its challenges, especially during COVID! However, overall we met our goals of assuring that the young people were able to walk away with transferable life skills that they could apply to their personal and professional lives.  As a YSE team, we acknowledged that we work and exist within a capitalist economy – therefore, the question we grappled with was “what is our social responsibility to engage in harm reduction in our approach to entrepreneurship”? 

This meant using popular brands as case studies in order to research and learn about the labor conditions of workers who are producing their products, how and why they should redistribute their wealth in support of their communities, and what the stories and who are the people that they would like to uplift and highlight in their work. We curated an environment where they were able to deeply engage in curiosity and learn from a well-rounded health education and entrepreneurship/ design curriculum. Following our program, they were empowered in their ability to address issues that negatively impact their communities.

Also, as a part of our entrepreneurship curriculum, we explored various economic system models alongside conversations on wealth justice. Unlike financial literacy which reinforces oppressive and inaccessible financial tools and resources that uphold white supremacist ideologies, wealth justice explores the systems that create room for wealth gaps – especially amongst Black and Brown communities. Our aim when we had the conversations on wealth justice was to empower young people with knowledge of financial systems as we unpacked historical trauma to improve their relationship with money, thus creating a healthy foundation for managing future finances.

For our Summer 2021 Black Girl’s Design Camp and 2020 Girl’s Design Camp, we partnered with the Department of Health Miami-Dade and the Health Council of South Florida to create a campaign that both addressed and sought to decrease the high rates of new HIV/ STD cases in Miami. Miami has the largest rate of new HIV cases in the nation. The population that makes up the largest portion of those new cases are Black and Brown young people – more closely queer and trans Black and Brown young adults who do not have access to healthcare and resources.

Our young people engaged in a curriculum rooted in sexual health and wellness, consent, healthy vs. unhealthy relationship dynamics & boundaries. This led us to also develop a partnership with KIPP Liberty Academy where we facilitated health education workshops for their 8th-grade students. 

We would like to shout out and thank the following inspired minds that built this programming meeting by meeting, as we engaged in deep study to cement our commitment to make camp enriched with care. This includes anyone who has participated in the facilitation of YSE programming, namely:

Wakumi Bes – Co-Founder/ Program facilitator
Jaiye Singletary – BGDC TA (2021)
Brittany “BK” King – BGDC TA (2021-2022)
Andralique – 2020 Program Assistant
Keesha Morisma- BGDC TA (2020-2021)/ YSE Programs Coordinator (2021-2022)
Shianne Salazar – BGDC film volunteer (2020) / YSE Photojournalist (2022)
Alexis Hyatt – Social Enterprise Manager (2021-2022)
Jahsmin “Jah” – BGDC TA (2022)
Reyna Noriega – BGDC “Graphic Artist” – 2021
Naja Moon – BGDC “Graphic Artist” – 2021
Chloe Harvey BGDC “Graphic Artist” – 2021
Auset – BGDC Design Mentor – 2021
Keisha – BGDC Design Mentor – 2021
Taylor Crosley – BGDC Design Mentor – 2021
Sukii – BGDC Entrepreneur Panelist (2021) / GDC Pitch Competition Panelist (2022)
Jade – BGDC Entrepreneur Panelist (2021)
Naike – BGDC Entrepreneur Panelist (2021)
Mickey – BGDC Entrepreneur Panelist (2021)
Becca (Chromat) – BGDC Design Mentor (2021)
Luisana – GDC Pitch Competition Panelist (2022)
Michelle Lisa Polissaint – GDC Pitch Competition Panelist (2022)
Luz McCook – GDC Chef (2022)
Chef Ari and Kelsey – GDC Wellness Mentor (2022)
Inez – GDC Guest Facilitator (2022)
LaCriscia – GDC Guest Facilitator (2022)
Lisa Holder – GDC Guest Facilitator (2022)
Juana Jones – YSE Marketing Mentor (2021-2022)
The B.O.Y. Garden (2022)
Old Dillard Museum (2022)
The Historic Hampton House (2022)
CIC Miami (2021)
Twinkle Toes Transportation (2021-2022)
Little Haiti Cultural Center (2022)

A farewell message from BK, Alexis, and Keesha to the Design Camp Alumni