As young people become involved in their community and society at large, how do we balance existing systems and expectations while embracing younger voices? How do we ensure that the next generation is prepared to impact the world around them? Organizations like Detroit Area Youth Uniting Michigan (D.A.Y.U.M.) are working to help find that balance.

Run by youth activists, D.A.Y.U.M. aims to equip young people with the necessary tools to engage in organizing. Their goal is to empower young people to take charge of social change and play a leading role in decision-making. The organization believes that young people should have a say in determining the issues and strategies used to achieve progress.

D.A.Y.U.M. has been at the forefront of youth activism since its inception in 2018. The organization was founded following the March For Our Lives protest and has since become a driving force behind a variety of demonstrations and campaigns both in Detroit and across the state. The organization shows its commitment to social justice in many ways, one of which was coordinating a Count Day Strike that protests the issue of contaminated water in school drinking fountains. In addition, D.A.Y.U.M. provided essential mental health support to young people during the height of COVID-19.

“We decided early on that we didn’t want to be a branch for the March For Our Lives national organization.” Said D.A.Y.U.M. strategic coordinator Julia Cuneo, “We wanted to be able to work on all sorts of issues that young people are being impacted by and are experiencing. So, we created D.A.Y.U.M. to be more grassroots and more responsive to whatever was coming up in young people’s lives.

Empowering youth and amplifying their voices is crucial but can also be challenging, especially in a society that tends to overlook the perspectives of the younger generation. D.A.Y.U.M., along with their adult allies, offers a variety of strategies to aid young organizers in developing critical skills, building confidence, advocating for their ideas, and making a meaningful impact in situations where they may be dismissed or overlooked due to their age.

One of the primary strategies is their weekly Sunday meetings, where upcoming events are explored and explained thoroughly. During this time, adult allies are transparent with the young organizers on what to expect and what they may be walking into. This transparency is crucial to their preparation, allowing them to hold their ground in tough and challenging spaces.

“We have really strong adult allies.” Said D.A.Y.U.M. chair Janiala Young, “They will always take a stand for us. And when we are preparing ourselves, we are doing so intergenerationally.”

In addition to their weekly Sunday meetings, D.A.Y.U.M. has an internship program for young people. According to Janiala Young, the program provides a one-on-one learning opportunity that delves deep into the root causes of social issues. Young people learn various ways to organize and implement strategies that have worked for D.A.Y.U.M.’s adult allies in the past. The program, which is a month-long, has an intergenerational aspect that fosters a unique learning environment that is both energizing and empowering.

Janiala Young states that adults must be willing to listen and understand their part in helping the youth lead and hold themselves accountable for ensuring and engaging in these systems that benefit them but do not benefit the youth.

Students collaborate to overcome a challenge that has arisen from the scavenger hunt.

Song Foundation has been a small part of the support system for D.A.Y.U.M.’s youth-led initiatives. D.A.Y.U.M.’s extensive work in fighting for a seat at the table for marginalized youth aligns with the Song Foundation’s commitment to diverse youth and emergent leadership. Support for youth-run organizations can be hard to find, so Song Foundation is proud to contribute to Detroit Area Youth Uniting Michigan. The Foundation is eager to see how D.A.Y.U.M.’s youth organizing initiatives continue to make a difference in local and statewide communities.

D.A.Y.U.M. is currently organizing campaign events and community events, which are to be hosted and run by young people. As the treasurer of the organization, Avery Causley-Ingram stated that having access to funds has provided resources to better educate the public about the campaigns. This has been especially beneficial in expanding D.A.Y.U.M.’s reach across Michigan and bringing more people to their events.

Transportation costs have been a major concern for the organization, particularly for members who do not live in Detroit. The funding from Song Foundation has helped cover these costs, ensuring better access for D.A.Y.U.M..

The D.A.Y.U.M. team convening after completing the scavenger hunt.

Outreach remains a major future priority for the organization. With a wealth of members already on board, they recognize that many young people across Michigan would be eager to join them if only they knew D.A.Y.U.M. existed. By spreading the word and bringing more people into the fold, D.A.Y.U.M. is poised to harness even more youth power and make a greater impact in the state. 

If you want to learn more about D.A.Y.U.M., visit their social media: Facebook and Instagram. Also, you can check out their website.