What We're About
The Carolina Youth Action Project is a grassroots nonprofit that uses music as a vehicle for social change and builds power among girls, transgender youth, and gender nonconforming youth in Charleston, South Carolina. We develop feminist and anti-racist youth leaders through cultural organizing practices that blend music education, political education, and DIY media making.
We envision a South Carolina that affirms the voices of girls, trans youth, and gender nonconforming youth, values their leadership, and works collectively to dismantle the structures of domination, violence, and punishment that shape their lives.
We believe girls, trans youth, and gender nonconforming youth are best positioned to lead a movement for lasting change. We recognize them as experts of their own experiences and work to uplift their voices as they develop their leadership and build power together.
We believe our work is inherently political. We use education as a tool to examine the past, critique our existing conditions, and organize our communities to create a safer and more just world. Our praxis is grounded in feminism, anti-racism, popular education, and creative expression.
We believe developing supportive relationships with each other is foundational to the work we do each day. We understand that collective healing requires the building of these supportive relationships: those sustained by love, trust, and empathy. We seek to build communities invested in collaboration, transformation, and fighting for justice.
We believe in addressing the root causes of community issues and working together to support all those affected by them. We value practices that seek to address harm and prioritize holding community members accountable for their actions. We reject the use of punitive methods that rely on violence and isolation.
We believe in a world without prisons and the police; we know these institutions have a devastating impact on and threaten the safety of our communities. Our work aims to critique, resist, and eliminate the carceral state, both structurally and ideologically. We push back against systems and beliefs that normalize state violence and reinforce a culture of disposability.
We believe we will only be free when all of our communities are free. We commit to fighting for the liberation of all oppressed peoples and fighting against the systems that exploit, endanger, and destroy us. We work to unlearn and dismantle white supremacy, misogyny, capitalism, heteropatriarchy, transphobia, fatphobia, ableism, ageism, xenophobia, and other forms of violence.
The Carolina Youth Action Project (CYAP) is a grassroots youth organizing and culture change organization led by young women, transgender/gender non-conforming people and queer-identified people that builds power among girls, women and trans/GNC youth in Charleston, South Carolina. CYAP was founded as Girls Rock Charleston in 2011 by a multi-racial team of six feminists, artists, community organizers, and LGBTQ leaders. Since our founding, we’ve worked to address intersecting issues of sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, and poverty in our city by lifting the leadership of girls and trans/GNC youth who are most directly affected by these root causes. In December of 2016, CYAP’s staff and board voted unanimously to change the organization’s name to the Carolina Youth Action Project in order to better reflect CYAP’s work and focus as a grassroots youth justice organization.
Since 2011, CYAP has hosted Girls Rock Charleston camps each summer that center, uplift, and affirm LGBTQ youth and girls through music education, DIY media making, and creative collaboration. This programming stitches together a community of young feminist and anti-racist activists in a city that is often defined by misogyny and racism. Each summer, we provide political education, leadership education, and arts programming to young people (ages 8-18) and develop the leadership and analysis of young adult volunteers (ages 18-25). In 2014, we expanded our programming to include a pilot after-school program for girls and trans youth in Charleston and a New Organizer Training course for young adult organizers ages 18-25. Over the years, we have worked in coalition with organizations like Southerners on New Ground and the Charleston Area Justice Ministry to reduce the over-incarceration of young people, fight homophobic policies in local schools, and stitch together a community of people in Charleston committed to building a better world for girls and trans youth.
In Fall 2015, we launched our first year-round after school program, which intervened on the school-to-prison pipeline and builds youth power through cultural organizing practices rooted in arts education, political education, leadership development, and basic organizing training. Our after school program is the only community-based alternative to incarceration (ATI) in South Carolina. We are very excited to see more ATIs take seed through the new Charleston ATI Collaborative, convened by Community Connections for Youth.
Early in 2017, we joined the steering committee of the South Carolina Coalition to Raise the Age, convened by the Campaign for Youth Justice. Through our participation in this coalition, we are part of the grassroots effort to push the SC Department of Juvenile Justice to invest in community-based alternatives to incarceration to serve the 17-year olds who will enter their system through raise the age implementation as well as the youth currently in their care. We want the Department of Juvenile Justice to transform from a system that currently targets girls, LGBTQ youth, youth of color, and poor and working class youth in our state.