Marion Barry Summer Youth Employment Program

by Isiejah Allen,

13 September, 2022

MBSYEP Participants and Empower DC Community Organizer, Sebrena Rhodes

The Mayor Marion S. Barry Summer Youth Employment Program (MBSYEP) is a locally funded initiative sponsored by the Department of Employment Services (DOES) that provides District youth ages 14 to 24 with enriching and constructive summer work experiences through subsidized placements in the private and government sectors.

We had a group of 7 youth who participated in the MBSYEP at the Ivy City Clubhouse. 

On Friday, August 5th we celebrated the end of the program.

The participants of the program were Samory Mitchell, Diamonte Powell, Zo’shawn Simon, Tobias JohnsonMya Stuckey, Jameson Merritt, and Rickey Lindsey.

"Our responsibility is to be a voice for the Ivy City community," the group said collectively.

During the program, the youth engaged in activism, connected with community leaders, and completed other enrichment activities; the teens Delivered fresh produce and flowers to Ivy City residents, installed a PurpleAir monitor to research neighborhood air pollution, and researched urban heat islands and how it affects communities with limited green space, such as in Ivy City. The group also studied Rev. Alexander Crummell and his impact in Washington DC.

"I'm from Ward 4, but coming here (to Ivy City), I got a broader view of the city. This is a strong black community," said Samory Mitchell. "I participated in a lot of things that uplifted the community, I got a chance to see something different, something that I wasn't used to seeing."

In regard to activism, the MBSYEP youth engaged in an open discussion with Councilmember Robert White about politics, life, and career goals. "The squeaky wheel gets the oil," said Diamonte Powell. "That's what I learned, you have to speak up, and keep speaking up until something is done." According to Tobias Johnson, "Councilmember White told us about adversity in his younger days and reminded us to do our best to be safe, watch the company we keep, and to always dress for the occasion."

Other activities included:

  • Speaking with Malcolm Bailey and Malik Cherry on financial literacy using online currency 
  • Discussing sexual awareness on STI/STD and advancing health literacy/heath disparities with Brenton Sanford and the United Planning Organization (UPO)  
  • Visiting the National African American History Museum (NAAHM) to learn about important African history 
  • Participating in weekly art sessions with Board Member Imani Brown 
  • Visiting the National Arboretum to see examples of positive green space for the community 
  • Building a computer from scratch using hardware and software with Ryan Linehan
  • Working with Yosef in his art studio located in the Ivy City community to construct a art collage using magazines and newspapers

Mya Stuckey said, "It was a really good experience, I had a lot of fun; we built a computer from scratch! That was my favorite part."

When asked about challenges the group faced, Mya responded, "it was hard work trying to get people to understand why Ivy City needs community support. There wasn't anything that we could have done to prevent it, that's just the type of work that goes into community organizing and community leadership."

Mya also mentioned that it was often difficult to maneuver around Ivy City due to the sidewalk obstructions in the community; the MBSYEP youth completed a sidewalk study in which it was concluded that there are more than 50 sidewalk obstructions in the historic, residential section of Ivy City. No sidewalk obstructions were found in Ivy City's new retail areas.

The youths' sidewalk study can be seen here.

All of the youth participants noted that the extreme heat in the Ivy City neighborhood created an additional challenge. Interestingly enough, one of the task that the youth were assigned was to install PurpleAir quality monitors.

"The air monitors showed the pollution in our neighborhood," the group said. "Right now it's super high, it should never be this high." To view a real-time air quality map of Ivy City, click here.

When asked what they would say to current and potential supporters of Empower DC, the youth had the following to say:

"If you got a chance to witness some of the things Ivy City is faced with, if these same things were happening in your neighborhood, what would you do?" - Samory Mitchell

"You can help more than you think, even the smallest bit. Like they say, one person's trash is another person's treasure." - Diamonte Powell

"If you can help, please do it. There are kids like me, I've basically been in Ivy City my whole life, I wouldn't have been able to do all of these things without the clubhouse." - Mya Stuckey

"If I could talk to everyone, I'd explain the importance of Ivy City and what it means, like the history and how it affects the community." - Zo'Shawn Simon

A slideshow presentation of the MBSYEP created by the youth participants can be seen here.

To view a photo gallery of the program in action, click here.

To donate to Empower DC, please click here.

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