Update from STOP Re: Division in FLY

May 23, 2016 Leave a Comment

May 23, 2016
Dear STOP members, supporters, allies and broader community,

It is with a heavy heart that we write this letter to inform you that a division has occurred in Fearless Leading by the Youth (FLY). We are writing to give context to what happened and so that everyone understands that while this is painful, it is also an opportunity for us, and youth organizing across the City and Nation, to grow stronger. A small group of FLY members have unilaterally decided to take the name FLY and separate themselves from STOP. These individuals no longer have any affiliation with STOP or STOP’s youth program FLY. STOP will re-found our youth program with a new name.

Fearless Leading by the Youth (FLY) was formed under the umbrella of Southside Together Organizing for Power (STOP) in 2007. STOP’s mission is to advance economic and social human rights by organizing and developing leadership among people most affected by economic and racial oppression. Since 2007 STOP has worked with youth leaders of FLY to develop their leadership to advocate for change in their community. We engage low-income Black youth in organizing to shape healthcare, juvenile justice, and related policies that directly affect them and their communities. We develop leadership through organizing training and popular education.

STOP worked with FLY to found the Audy Home Campaign which has fought to shut down the Juvenile Detention Center and invest in restorative justice alternatives. In the past 2 years we worked in coalition to win $1M of investment in restorative justice alternatives. We also worked with FLY to found the Trauma Center Campaign and the Trauma Care Coalition which after a 5 year battle has won a commitment to build the only level 1 trauma center on the south side of Chicago at the University of Chicago Hospital. Over the last 9 years we have developed strong Black youth leaders who have led transformative organizing in Chicago.

A rift has developed in FLY. The root cause of this rift is a combination of conflicts over: individuals making decisions for the group without consulting the group, differences over core values, and homophobic and sexist behavior.

Over the past year we have been engaging in a process to address these issues by:
1)    Developing a code of conduct that specifies homophobic and sexist behavior which we do not tolerate, in addition to other oppressive behaviors not tolerated. We are also developing trainings on our code of conduct for our board, staff, and members.
2)    Facilitating restorative justice peace circles between members.
3)    Supporting Board and Staff to take leadership roles to address these issues.
4)    Developing democratic decision-making structures, a values statement, and an accountability process.
A small group of FLY members have unilaterally decided to walk away from this process and misappropriate the use of the name FLY outside of the democratic decision-making structure.

Many strong and powerful youth leaders will continue to work with STOP to further grow our youth organizing program. Together we will re-found our youth program with a new name. With them we will continue to fight for trauma care, criminal justice reform, healthcare for all, and justice for all young Black people and all oppressed people. No one owns these struggles.

We are taking this moment as an opportunity to re-center our youth organizing, as well as our other organizing work regarding the way systems of oppression play out within our organization. We are taking this moment as an opportunity to focus on rebuilding a structure which stands up for and centers those who are most directly harmed by sexism, homophobia, transphobia and other oppressions. We are also rebuilding a structure which ensures democratic decision-making so that youth truly have a voice in shaping this organization. To those who left us, we wish them the best in standing up for their community and advancing struggles for human rights.

If you have any questions, concerns, or would like to discuss the above please do not hesitate to contact the STOP Board Vice President Deborah Taylor at southsidestop@gmail.com or 773 217 9598.

Thank you so much for your support and solidarity.


Deborah Taylor
Board Vice President
Southside Together Organizing for Power
602 E 61st Street Chicago, IL 60637



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