Youth For Unity: Laying the Foundations

BGCA’s Yetta Robinson is back on the ClubX Blog to share some exciting news about an upcoming program update that SO MANY OF YOU have been asking for! Plus a special Black History FUTURE reflection from Director of Trauma-Informed Practice Essence Vinson.

Candid conversation time. The week before the MLK holiday, I told my 6-year-old son that he would be out of school the following Monday and the reason why. His response was, “Not Martin Luther King!” I was taken aback. I asked him what was wrong, and after some back and forth, I realized that they had been discussing Dr. King in school. Maybe he was tired of hearing about him. Maybe he doesn’t fully understand Dr. King’s impact on society. Maybe he’s a bit of a contrarian, or it could be that he’s only six, so ideas of identity, fairness, bias, and privilege are still new to him. Emotionally and mentally, he’s still learning how to engage and empathize with others, but through our discussion, I realized that I have work to do. 

Martin Luther King Jr. Mlk Day GIF by Gilbert, Arizona - Find & Share on GIPHY

I fully believe that it is important that we as youth development professionals begin laying the foundations for tolerance and allyship at a young age. As youth begin cultivating and crafting their identity and how they relate to others, equipping them with guiding principles becomes critical. It is with this notion in mind that BGCA is excited to share a new Youth for Unity curriculum for members in grades K-2. BGCA’s Youth for Unity program provides youth with the groundwork that will help them better understand diversity and combat prejudice, bigotry, and discrimination. This program consists of a comprehensive, broad-based set of activities and conversation starters that build the capacity of local Clubs to help members appreciate themselves as unique and special individuals, understand our society’s diversity, recognize bias and unfairness, and take personal leadership in confronting bias. 

The new curriculum, appropriate for youth ages 6-9, will consist of four units with three activities per unit: 

  • Unit 1: See What’s Special and Unique in Every Individual 
  • Unit 2: Understand Our Society’s Diversity 
  • Unit 3: Recognize Bias and Fairness 
  • Unit 4: Take Personal Leadership in Confronting Bias 

We looked for ways to ensure that our youngest Club members could build a connection with others while they thought about these ideas. We’re hoping youth will laugh together and open up to one another when they create and compare self-portraits as they explore their own identity or share things they love about themselves. Unit 1 is currently available for Boys & Girls Club staff on Club Programs, with units 2–4 launching soon. There are also activities available for youth ages 10–12 on MyFuture that anyone can access. 

Image with a pink background and several colorful shoelaces tied into a knot with the words "NEW! Youth for Unity Grades K-2 available now at Club Programs dot org with more coming soon."

We all would like to exist in safe, supportive, and inclusive environments, but these spaces must be intentionally cultivated. Young people need transformative opportunities and experiences to practice social-emotional development, specifically empathy for others. Youth for Unity is a great way to start having conversations with our youngest members about tolerance and discovering the beauty within themselves and others. 

And as an exciting bonus to celebrate the launch, we’re running a contest for Club staff! Complete one activity from the Youth for Unity curriculum for Members ages 6–9 on Club Programs and submit a review, including photos and/or videos. Participating Clubs will be entered into a raffle for the chance to win $500! ​Contest runs from February 20, 2023 – March 20, 2023. Reviews and photos/videos must be submitted to the Club Programs platform by 11:59 p.m. on March 20 to qualify. ​Even if you miss the contest, we are ALWAYS interested in your feedback. You can review any activity on ClubPrograms, and we hope you do! 

And now looking both to the innovation of the past and to the creativity of the future, a reflection by Essence Vinson.

Black History Month is a dedicated time each year when folks across the country remember and celebrate the many contributions of African-Americans throughout our country’s history. Emphasis is usually placed on Black inventors, trailblazers, freedom fighters, and educators of the past and present that have created the 21st century America we know today.

One aspect of Black History that has often been overlooked but is now getting it’s long-due shine is the concept of Afrofuturism. Coined in the 1990’s, Afrofuturism has since taken on many definitions, but can most commonly be defined as using the “intersection of imagination, technology, the future, and liberation” in multiple art forms to portray and create the Black experience. In simple terms, Afrofuturism focuses more on what could be, which brings hope, and less on the past, which at times is colored with pain.

Fanactivistcon GIF by Black Panther #FanActivistCon - Find & Share on GIPHY

My first introduction to Afrofuturism was when I was about 15 years old and randomly picked up a copy of Octavia E. Butler’s final novel, Fledgling, in Walmart. Fledgling is a novel about a vampire species with a gene “mutation” that gave them melanated skin and allowed them to walk out in the sun! I was already a vampire fan (Twilight Saga anyone!) but reading a book about Black vampires gave me a joy and a sense of pride I didn’t know I needed! This opened the door for me to explore the other groundbreaking and Afrofuturistic works of Octavia E. Butler – my now favorite author.

Afrofuturism doesn’t only apply to science fiction, it can be found in movies (Black Panther: Wakanda Forever), music (Solange’s A Seat at the Table and much of Janelle Monáe’s work), animation/anime (Yasuke), fashion as worn by artists like Lil Nas X, and the list goes on.

This year, as I celebrate Black History month with a deep reverence for the past, I will also be curled up with the works of N.K. Jemisin, visualizing the world and the possibilities of the future through her eyes.  How will you amplify and uplift Black futures this month and all year long through the lens of Afrofuturism?

Black Lives Matter Joy GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

How do you introduce youth to diverse, multicultural programming? Do you have activities around science fiction or fantasy that your members love? We want to know! Comment below, on the BGCA Youth Development Facebook page, or email

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