“The current political moment calls for people of color and disenfranchised people to be at the head of work,” says Jeaninne Kayembe, co-executive director of Urban Creators, a Racial & Economic Justice Fund grantee.
Kayembe, Alex Epstein, and Devon Bailey founded Urban Creators in 2010 with a vision of empowering the community by providing resources and opportunities and helping young people develop leadership skills. Urban Creators’ organizing work reflects the legacy of artist activists like Arthur Hall and Lily Yeh of the Village of Arts and Humanities.
Urban Creators intentionally builds community through events like Hoodstock, an annual festival now in its fourth year that brings together local businesses, artists, and community members to celebrate art, activism, and farming in North Philly.
Kayembe notes that although the organization cultivates an intergenerational space, it also amplifies youth voices in its work. “There’s a lot of ageism in the nonprofit world,” says Kayembe. “We are showing the world what young people can do to change that world.”
Throughout the year, Urban Creators hosts youth leadership programs at Life Do Grow, the organization’s urban farm and community center. The youth apprentice program hires six young people from the immediate neighborhood to learn gardening and to engage in political education about food systems, gentrification, and institutional racism.
“We’re confronting the myth that urban agriculture in Philadelphia is white and male,” Kayembe says. “We work with marginalized folks, creating ideas and initiating work. We’re also challenging stereotypes around what women can do.”
In the future, Kayembe says, Urban Creators plans to train youth apprentice program alumni to run the program. “We’re a moving, breathing, living organism,” says Kayembe. “We’ll always be moving in a way that responds to community needs whatever the political climate is.”