Building Rural Allyship

Youth Collaboratory
rural street sign with arrows

In recent years, there has been a staggering rise in white nationalism and domestic extremism in the United States. Additionally, the fear, isolation, and grief due to COVID-19 and the impacts of racial and community violence have created a national youth/young adult mental health crisis. These factors, coupled with increases in school and other mass shootings, suicide, and bias-related bullying and violence involving youth - make it clear that urgent action is needed.  

Although there are a myriad of racial equity initiatives and training opportunities available, they largely lack the engagement of rural communities. Further, service providers in rural communities may avoid engaging with these opportunities due to a lack of understanding or alignment with the language and approaches used. In many parts of the rural US, the language surrounding equity and conversations about race and racism are politically charged. A new framework is needed that can bridge the divide and authentically engage rural communities (and particularly service providers) in these conversations.

Young people, particularly those in rural communities with limited resources, access to education, and career opportunities, are influenced by the divided social and political climate related to racial and intersectional equity in unique ways. In our work to increase equitable, positive outcomes for youth and young adults, we have recognized a growing need for targeted resources and support to 1.) prevent youth indoctrination into white nationalism and violent extremism, and 2.) intervene with youth who are engaged in these practices and/or with extremist groups. It is clear that there is a need for greater attention to connecting rural communities to the national conversation on racial justice and intersectional equity.

Drawing from a number of violence interruption and community building models, we aim to build rural allyship through the engagement of caring community members and those seen as connectors and “trusted messengers” such as teachers, faith leaders, coaches, social workers, and more. By creating shared language and understanding, providing training on facilitating challenging conversations, and sharing tangible tools and resources, we will build the capacity of rural communities to utilize positive youth development in the prevention of youth indoctrination into white nationalism and interrupt violent extremism. 

Given our deep relationships with organizations operating in rural communities, Youth Collaboratory is beginning the work of convening youth service providers, youth and young adults, and community partners in those communities to facilitate collective growth and development. We know that for this work to be sustainable and take root in communities across the nation, depth of relationship and trust are needed. Youth Collaboratory is fostering these conversations and relationships because we are committed to rural communities and the youth and young adults increasingly affected by white nationalism and domestic extremism.

As our team explores rural allyship, here are some of what we’ve been reading and listening to: 

Does the need for building rural allyship resonate with what you’ve seen in your community, or ideas that you’ve been tossing around? We’d love to hear what you’re thinking and what is happening in your community. Drop us a note telling us what you’re seeing and experiencing at info@youthcollaboratory.org

Youth Collaboratory Members: We invite you to join us for a Discovery Session on October 13th at 2 pm ET where we can explore this topic together. Help us shape what our role and response in this work is. Keep an eye out for registration information in the coming weeks.