“There is a space for all who come to Highlander” is part of an opening stanza of a new song, “A Place at Highlander,” written by Mr. Freddie Mosley, an adult ally from 2nd Chance, during the 2009 Seeds of Fire camp. Mr. Mosely drives 2 hours from Columbus to Lexington, MS to do the hard and amazing work of supporting youth and families tying to make change. This dedication to change by the young people and adult allies who attend Seeds of Fire camp and who are active in our region is the beginning of the transformation of the systems and practices which impact our communities.
From July 19-26th, 23 young people from the South and Appalachia gathered at Highlander, along with their 11 adult allies. They came from rural and urban communities in Mississippi, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Florida to work together to understand and develop strategies and actions to change the education system and the juvenile justice system in the South.
During the first day of the camp, the group explored the history of globalization from 1490 to the present by making murals and creating skits that allowed participants to understand the connections between our current reality and the global histories of imperialism and slavery. They then moved closer in and made community maps to look at where power lies in their own communities and share this with others.
The next few days involved a youth track and an adult track. Each track explored the challenges and experiences of youth organizing and the role of adult allies. In the youth track, youth developed and led workshops about organizing, all the way from defining an issue to media to making and meeting a budget.
When we all came back together, several groups led workshops on the issues they are working on, including Restorative Justice, Peer Communication, and the DREAM Act, and others went home ready to incorporate these issues into their work.
At the end of Seeds of Fire, participants said that they felt empowered to become stronger leaders in their groups. The youth were able to make connections between their struggles and movements and form coalitions with each other. As one group said as they reflected about their experience, they left with “inspiration with SKILLS!”
We were blessed this year with an amazing Seeds of Fire Camp staff which exemplified our commitment to having a youth-led process. The Youth Track was staffed by Courtney Oats (MS), Ausheyia Cunningham (MS), Horacio “King” Leal (MS), Cassandra Barba (TN), and Catalina Nieto (TN). The Adult Ally Track was staffed by Leslie Etienne (GA) and Jamie Harrison (GA). We were also honored and grateful to our summer intern, Sarah Apt, who rocked it in every way this summer, including helping to write this article.