Recognizing the Power Youth Possess: Juwan’s Perspective
We took the time to interview some of our team about who they are and what brought them to this work. We will amplify diverse narratives from their perspective and in their voices. Join us as we shift mindsets by disrupting social norms.
Who are you?
My name is Juwan Cook and I am a Program coordinator for Diversity Talks. I am an educator, authentically myself, and a Black person living in 2021. Originally working in the Food Service/ Hospitality Industry my focus was shifted when I felt a calling to be of service to youth. Through my work in peer education and leading my own youth initiatives, I have committed myself to be of service to youth and foster opportunities to allow their voices to be amplified.
What was going on around you that led you to this work?
When in spaces with youth they would tell me stories of difficulties at school, trouble finding their authenticity, and needing more autonomy. Hearing that these feelings that resonated with me when I was their age was still occurring reassured me that my presence in the work I was doing was needed. In my own personal life I had hit my breaking point of the toxic work culture that food service promotes and enables. Racism, sexism, and classism were things I saw regularly and knew I needed to work to combat them rather than be a victim to the -isms.
How would you describe Diversity Talks approach to disrupting social norms and dismantling systems of oppression? What makes our work special?
Diversity Talks understands the need for humanity when having conversations of anti racism work but also doesn’t shy away from hard truths that need to be heard to help us shift towards a more equitable culture. However Diversity Talks does not end there. Our “twist” is that we recognize the power youth possess and help shape their expertise to be leaders in anti racism and DEI work. They then become vanguards of change in their communities, school, jobs, and beyond. This approach is unlike any other “diversity trainings” and is the key to our success.
As part of the Diversity Talks team, what gives you hope for the future of our society?
Simply put. Our youth. I look at the efforts of Diversity Talks as seeds of knowledge and empathy being handed out. Our youth received their seeds and nurture them to grow to where they are now in their journeys of cultural competency. They then hand out their own seeds to share what they have learned and know to be true. This exchange is what sows the seeds of change. Participants grow and shift then share their knowledge. With the commitment, passion, and growth our youth have shown me I know the future to be one where everyone is free.