Seeds of Fire is a program at Highlander that brings together Southern and Appalachian youth-led and youth centered groups and individuals organizing for social justice and change. SOF focuses on the importance of having youth co-train and co-educate their communities and each other, because youth have the power to catalyze systemic change across the board. Seeds of Fire works to promote youth-centered, youth-led spaces, provide guidance, mentorship, political education and skill-based trainings that gives room for young people to take the resources they need and work towards a just future.

In 2021, Seeds of Fire is hosting two fellowships to provide direct support and resources to youth organizers and boost capacity for their work in communities on the ground:

The Highlander Methodology Fellowship is supporting six youth organizers in the South and Appalachia working on projects centered around Highlander’s methodologies of Popular Education, Cultural Organizing, Intergenerational Organizing, Language Justice, Participatory Action Research, and Land and Place Liberation.

The TRANSformative Cohort is supporting five trans or gender variant young people across the South and Appalachia to support their leadership and community organizing efforts on the frontlines.

Meet the Methodology Fellows!

Brenda is is listening to the stories of young and old Latinos as they account their version of Latinidad.
Kawthar is hosting Zoom events in the upcoming months where there will be Arabic and Spanish translation available!
Aliyah started The Melanin Association and will be using black women and femme identity folks of various ages to show that different ages could cause a change in our community. This is a safe space to be oneself and make fellow friends.
Yareli is exploring the complexities of the Latinx community and the behavior that we’ve been told to “just accept”. Check her out on @breakingciclos
Sofia's project, Youth Education and Empowerment Together (YEET), is to enact community change by providing a youth-driven network of support and opportunities for local activism. Make sure to check out @crisisactorknoxville to see the weekend music events they are organizing in Knoxville!
Nana runs the instagram and coming tiktok account, follow their work at the @_seedsoffire_ account! This weekend Seeds of Fire started their own instagram!

MEET THE TRANSFORMATIVE COHORT!

Asia Smith: I am 23 years old. I identify as non-binary transmasc and I accept all pronouns given respectfully. (They/he/she) I am from Mobile, Alabama born and raised. I love the color yellow. I study music at the University of South Alabama and hope to have a career as a music therapist. I also sing opera, play bass guitar and piano, and write poetry to fill my life with creative outlets of expression. I am also highly active in my community through volunteer work such as benefit concerts for LGBT+ youth, basketball tournaments to combat violence in my hood, and weekly food box deliveries in my community. I value every life as if it were family and I am driven by my desire for every one to have food and be happy. 

sav miles (they/them) is a 24 year old community organizer born and based in the beautiful foothills of northeast alabama. through the transformative cohort sav will be fundraising and organizing for an intersectional community space in their hometown of gadsden for local BIPOC, LGTBQ, and mutual aid groups. this includes the gadsden free store, which provides clothes, food, and other necessities without cost to anyone who requests them. during their time with the cohort sav will continue to help coordinate the free store, with the particular goal of making affirming attire, support, and community more accessible to trans people across northeast alabama. sav also spends their time growing food, visiting local springs, and picking banjo.

Sun and I am a Black trans organizer located in Georgia. I am a part of a cohort at the Highlander Center and I am working to build a space for Black queer and trans youth to build a revolutionary politic and explore their gender identity. I am also a fellow at Southerners on New Ground (SONG) doing work to end money bail and pretrial detention. 

With my work through Highlander, I want to build a program where Black youth can learn about patriarchy, colonization, and imperialism, while also learning how to be in better relationship with the people around them and the earth. This space will also give room for youth to explore their identities, practice healing justice, and learn new skills. The reasons I am motivated to do this type of work are because queer and trans youth (also youth in general) are subjegated to multiple forms of oppression, starting with their own families. I want to give these children the space that I needed as a child, which all children need. A space where they don’t feel shameful about their identities, and be able to be in their whole selves. At this moment, young people are heavily propagandized, to themselves and the adults around them. I want this group to be a space where they can work through their own internalized oppression and build critical thinking skills.

B-Trix (they/them) New Orleans – focus on working with other LGBTQ+ youth through art and theater

Jo (they/them/elle) – focus on transformative justice

Seeds of Fire 2021 Grantees

Asile (uh-sigh-yul) is a community advocate and Black studies scholar based in Atlanta, Georgia. Asile’s work centers Black liberation and the histories of economic, social, and political protest movements within the Black Diaspora. Asile comes as one but stands as ten thousand (shout out to Ms. Angelou) — her research highlights the importance of Sankofa in building today’s Black justice movement, ranging from COINTELPRO’s relentless charge to dismantle the Black Panther Party, to Black identity politics and the Black business landscape in Paris, France. Her research on the Don’t Buy Where You Can’t Work Movements of the 1940s was selected as one of five undergraduate research topics at the National Council of Black Studies Conference in 2017. Currently, Asile works with a team of residents, stakeholders, and community leaders to reimagine how civic engagement can mend the gaps of social and economic inequality through the first study and review in over 40 years of Atlanta’s historic Neighborhood Planning Unit system. 

Her research project with the Highlander Center’s Seeds of Fire program will center the Participatory Action Research method to demystify “the Black vote” in Georgia after the recent unprecedented election cycles, and ultimately create advocacy tools for the political framework Black folks envision for their communities, overall structural democracy reform, and  justice for Black people in Georgia and beyond.  

Outside of her work as a revolutionary Black woman fighting for liberation, Asile is an emerging yogi, a plant mama, a wine enthusiast, and a proud member of the #Beyhive

Beau Revlett is a tenant organizer on occupied Shawnee land, also known as Kentucky. They work to build multiracial, rural-urban movement to win community control of land and housing, a homes guarantee, and to dismantle white supremacy. Beau is a founding member of Lexington Housing Justice Collective and organizes with Root Cause Research Center. Through their Seeds of Fire project, Beau is conducting organizing trainings with tenants and tenant organizers across Kentucky.

Maij (they/he) is working on Revelations, a documentary on trans spirituality in the South

Seeds of Fire Program Components

SOF Centers:

  • Popular/Political Education and Analysis

We believe that political education and analysis, through the lens of popular education, creates lifelong leaders and change makers who are able to critically examine issues while making connections between our work locally, regionally, nationally and transnationally.

  • Intergenerational Organizing and Mentorship

The program often consists of youth and allies of different ages coming together for intergenerational programming. The allyship will involve adults supporting and challenging each other, while exploring how to best foster youth leadership and effective organizing.

  • Skills, Tools and Strategy Building

Through popular education, participants will experience 3-way learning practices where they will become both educators and learners of collective knowledge, learning and teaching new tools, techniques and strategies that have made organizing successful. Using research, theater, games, art, music, history and collective wisdom, participants will get to generate new visions for the world they are trying to build.

  • Transnational Struggles

In order to struggle and effectively envision a future for liberation, we will explore movements and organizing efforts happening across the world, often pulling from ancestral knowledge and wisdom.

Impact

    • Develop leaders and organizers with social and political analysis that are dismantling and uprooting State-sanctioned violence, challenging economic and governance systems and working for alternatives
    • Build resources for youth work in the region
    • Develop a participatory budgeting process for the Seeds of Fire fund that is funded by community members
    • Prepare young people to be part of organizations and assume leadership positions across the South
    • Achieve clear policy changes in schools, local communities and at all levels of government that are needed to shift harmful public school practices and end the criminalization of young people of color and immigrants

History

For 18 years, Highlander’s Seeds of Fire (SOF) program has impacted and connected thousands of young people (ages 13 – 17) and their allies (ages 18 and up), bringing together emerging and experienced grassroots organizers and community leaders to build collective power and influence critical shifts in policy decisions and practice. We host, support and network intergenerational organizers from across the South to share their social justice work and to learn about Highlander’s methodologies. Together, they discuss the different issues in their communities, strategies to address these challenges and build relationships throughout their local community and the region.

The Seeds of Fire program has included the SOF camp, mini-camps, the Living Legacy Tour, SOF Advisory Committee, Greensboro Justice Fellows, Stay Together Appalachian Youth (STAY), and Supporting Emerging Appalachian Leaders (SEAL), as well as local internships. Now we host fellowships, cohorts, networks, as well as working individually with youth and their organizations!