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Engage and Empower: A Call to Action for the Black Community to Build Success Pipelines for Our Youth

In every community, the promise of the future lies in the hands of its youth. The vitality, creativity, and potential of young people are among our greatest assets. Yet, simply engaging them—though crucial—is not sufficient. As we aim towards transformative growth, we must move from merely engaging our youth to empowering them. Empowerment means equipping them with tools, skills, and opportunities that forge paths to personal and communal success. This transition from engagement to empowerment is critical for the Black community, where historical systemic barriers have often hindered access to these essential resources.

The Critical Difference: Engaging vs. Empowering

Engagement is the initial step in connecting with our youth. It involves communication—talking to them, reaching out, and ensuring our messages resonate. Engagement is about making contact and building relationships. It's fundamental and forms the foundation of trust and understanding.

However, while engagement opens the door, empowerment ushers our youth through it. Empowerment is the process of providing the youth with marketable skills, educational opportunities, access to tools and technology, scholarships, and even capital—in forms such as inheritance—that prepare them for economic independence and success. It's about creating environments that foster self-efficacy and a tangible sense of control over their futures.

The Juneteenth Freedom Fest: A Model of Empowerment

The 8th Annual Juneteenth Freedom Fest exemplifies this dual approach. It not only engages Black youth through the Juneteenth Youth Leadership Award and opportunities to showcase their talents but empowers them by integrating aspects like a mini-job, college, and career fair. These initiatives provide practical steps toward economic empowerment and self-sufficiency. (Nominate a S. Carolina youth between the ages 8 and 18 for the Juneteenth Youth Leadership Award here: )

Giving Youth a Voice and a Stage

By offering young individuals a platform to express their creativity and leadership skills, the festival directly contributes to their personal and professional growth. This visibility is crucial. It not only celebrates their current achievements but also encourages them to dream bigger and aim higher.

Career and Educational Opportunities

The inclusion of a job and education fair at the festival exposes youth to potential career paths and educational opportunities they might not have encountered otherwise. This direct access to information and resources is a form of empowerment that can alter the trajectory of a young person’s life.

Volunteering and Networking

Engagement through volunteerism and offering vendor opportunities teaches responsibility and entrepreneurship, respectively. These are critical skills for personal development and professional success in any field.

The Long-Term Benefits of Youth Empowerment

Empowering our youth has both immediate and enduring benefits. In the short term, it increases their engagement in positive activities, reducing the risk of involvement in detrimental behaviors. It provides them with a sense of purpose and belonging, which is essential for mental and emotional health.

In the long run, youth empowerment can lead to higher educational achievements, greater career success, and more robust economic health within the community. Empowered individuals are more likely to return their gained value back to their communities, perpetuating a cycle of positivity and success.

Controlling the Narrative and Defending Our Image

It is imperative that the Black community takes control of the narrative surrounding our youth. Mainstream media often portrays a monolithic and negative image that does not reflect the diversity and brilliance of our young people. By engaging and empowering our youth, we help craft a narrative that highlights their achievements and potential.

Defending the image of our youth also means challenging stereotypes and advocating for policies and practices that recognize their full humanity and potential. This proactive stance helps dismantle systemic barriers that have historically impeded progress.

Recognizing the Natural Intelligence of Our Children

Our children are inherently capable and intelligent. By acknowledging this, we reinforce their ability to achieve great things. This belief in their potential is crucial for their development and self-esteem. It empowers them to strive for excellence and embrace opportunities for growth.

A Unified Call to Action

As a community, we must leverage our talents and resources not just to engage but to empower our youth. This requires a concerted effort and commitment from everyone—parents, educators, business leaders, and community activists.

How You Can Help

  • Participate in local youth programs: Whether by mentoring, volunteering, or simply offering your professional expertise.

  • Donate to scholarship funds: Financial contributions can significantly impact a young person's ability to pursue higher education.

  • Support youth entrepreneurship: Purchase from youth-run businesses or offer internships to young individuals.


Engagement is where it begins, but empowerment is where our future is built. The Juneteenth Freedom Fest is a prime example of how community initiatives can effectively blend these approaches to uplift our youth. By taking collective action to not only communicate with but also invest in our young people, we are crafting a robust foundation for their success and, by extension, the success of our community. Let's rise to this challenge together—engaging, empowering, and elevating the next generation of leaders and innovators in the Black community.

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