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 Charleston in which girls and transgender youth:
decide what it looks like and feels like to be a girl.
trust and support each other.
engage each other in a process of collective healing.
recognize the power and pleasure of their own creativity.
use music as a powerful way to communicate and exchange ideas.
have full control over their own bodies, sexualities, and reproductive health and are given all available tools and information to support that end.
are safe and encouraged to explore their identities.
are able to bring every part of themselves into every moment and are continually affirmed in their wholeness.
voices are valued in a collective community dialogue in which we decide what a safe community would look like for everyone.
are celebrated in their state of beings.
collaboration and community are valued above competition and isolation.
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.