A Powerful 2018 Youth Summit

June 29, 2018  |   Posted by :   |   Blog,Projects   |   Comments Off on A Powerful 2018 Youth Summit»


Green City Force’s 3rd annual Love Where You Live Youth Summit was nothing short of powerful. The Green City Force (GCF) Love Where You Live Youth Summit is an annual convening sponsored by the New York City Council, and hosted by SEIU 32BJ, where leadership is put into action through a day of networking, problem solving, performing, ideating and public speaking. On June 19th, over 150 Corps Members, alumni, staff, and community partners convened to explore how young residents of public housing are powering the movement for more sustainable communities. The day featured keynotes and idea exchanges with leading voices in local and global movements for sustainability and justice. Featured speakers included:

  • Ritchie Torres, New York City Council Member
  • Emi Mahmoud, World Slam Poetry Champion
  • Sideya Sherman, Executive Vice President for Community Engagement and Partnerships at the New York City Housing Authority
  • Mark Chambers,  Director of the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability
  • Margarett Jolly, GCF Board Member, and Director of Demonstration Projects- Con Edison
  • Lenore Friedlander, Assistant to the President, SEIU  32BJ
  • Donnel Baird, Founder of BlocPower

Corps Members and Alumni pose with Council Member Ritchie Torres and World Poetry Slam Champion Emi Mahmoud.

The Youth Summit spotlights youth leadership in action. Corps Members and Graduates were front and center the entire day- they brainstormed actionable solutions to challenges facing young people and NYCHA and pitched their ideas for reducing the use of single-use plastics like straws and plastic bags to key stakeholders from City government.



GCF Alumni Asha Dykes, Porch’e Brown, Chance Brown and Clifton Bryant (left to right).

Below is a full synopsis of the day:


The day opened with a presentation by GCF Director of Urban Agriculture Initiatives and Land Improvement Jennifer Tirado, on the dynamics of power and importance of being an engaged citizen. Jen co-MC’d the summit with Managing Director Sindri Manzanares, who produced the annual event with the support of Support Services Manager, Amelia Kreski.

alumni panel

Alumnus Paul Philpott speaks as part of the GCF alumni panel.

Lenore Friedland, Assistant to the President of SEIU 32BJ, the largest building services worker union in the country, urged participants to recognize their power and join forces to make important changes in their communities.

Sideya Sherman,  Executive Vice President for Community Engagement and Partnerships at the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), set  an early expectation for innovative solutions, imploring participants to use their collective experience and expertise to advance a vision for zero waste in public housing. The day’s charge was for participants to problem-solve around their power to curb the use of single-use plastics like straws and bags, and motivate others to do the same.


Alum Kittima Gladney, Base Building Organizer at Community Voices Heard, discusses how community organizers build power during the networking session.

A major riff on the theme of “power” was the power of self-expression and gathering others around your cause. World Slam Poetry Champion and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Emi Mahmoud shared the moving story of how she came to use the power of her voice to bring hope and change to refugees from her home Darfur and the world over. Emi recited her award-winning poetry and gave a presentation about her One Girl Walk across the Sudan.



Emi Mahmoud, World Slam Poetry Champion, addresses attendees.

Emi’s performance was followed by a powerful and candid conversation with Councilmember Ritchie Torres, the former Chair of the Committee on Public Housing, and a leading voice on issues related to affordable and public housing, police reform, school integration and youth civic engagement. Councilmember Torres opened up to attendees, recounting how he overcame his own struggle with depression to become the city’s youngest, and only openly gay Bronx Council Member. Having grown up in NYCHA housing himself, Council Member Torres urged the GCF community not to underestimate the power of their own voices, and to appreciate the positives in our lives. He then fielded questions from the audience on topics ranging from his personal history, to the current state of NYCHA.

Mark Chambers, the Director of the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability kicked off the afternoon session, sharing his own professional history, and encouraging Corps Members to be bold in sharing their talents, because they are in demand. Chambers then hosted a Thought Leadership exercise where Corps Members offered ideas on how to reduce the consumption of single-use plastics, and on how the City can further reach youth with its stated sustainability action goals. BlocPower Founder and Executive Director Donnel Baird and Con Edison Director of Research & Development and GCF board member Margarett Jolly sat on a panel entitled “The Power of Power” where they discussed importance of electrical power, how we choose to consume, generate and distribute it, and fielded questions from the attendees.


Mark Chambers, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, and GCF Executive Director Lisbeth Shepherd.

Cohort 17 Corps Member Lisa Kelly delivered a passionate spoken word piece about power. A highlight of this year’s Youth Summit was the alumni panel, when several GCF graduates working in a variety of fields including energy efficiency, urban agriculture, and community organizing discussed their paths after GCF and offered advice to current Corps Members. Panelists included Domingo Morales — Senior Organics Recovery Manager at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Keith Ford  — Direct Installer at Franklin Energy, Krystal Ruiz — Green City Force Illuminator, Kittima Gladney—Base Building Organizer at Community Voices Heard, Shontanyce Bailey—Farm Crew Leader at Harlem Grown and Paul Philpott who founded and runs Gateway Greens vertical farm with Square Roots. GCF alum and artist Je’ Jae Daniels and Sindri Manzanares gave a presentation on how to be a powerful LGBTQ+ ally by promoting and sustaining a climate of tolerance.


Alum Je’Jae Daniels discusses how to be an LGBTQ+ ally with GCF Managing Director Sindri Manzanares.

In a power networking session, attendees met with representatives from a variety of organizations to learn about their work and opportunities to get involved. The organizations represented were the City University of New York’s ASAP program, Big Reuse, Community Voices Heard, Green Workers Cooperative, GrowNYC, NYC Council Participatory Budgeting, business development services from NYCHA’s office Resident Economic Empowerment and Sustainability (REES), and Square Roots.

Green City Force’s talent was on full display with rap performances from Cohort 17 Member Justin Baker and GCF alumnus Domingo Morales. Cohort 14 alumna Chantel Kemp delivered her original poem, “The P Word” about her personal relationship to power.


Cohort 17 Urban Farm Corps Member Justin Baker performs.

To close out the day, we took the Walk the Talk pledge to reaffirm our commitment to exemplifying the principles GCF upholds, and NYC’s Zero Waste Pledge, committing to reduce our consumption and properly recycle and reuse our waste. The Summit closed with reflections on the day’s activities from attendees in a signature GCF hope session.

Thank you to all of the Corps Members, alumni, staff, and guest speakers, who committed their passion, focus, and energy to an incredible day. Your power was felt!


Related Posts

Comments are closed.

Website Design by Manifesto Communications