Youth Leadership Support Network

YLSN History

Youth Leadership Support Network is a violence prevention, arts, education, media and training network based in Washington, D.C. Its mission is to empower youth to express themselves and have a voice in society through intergenerational and diverse leadership opportunities and civic engagement. Rooted in over 20 years of youth organizing in DC, YLSN bridges youth organizing experiences from the 20th and 21st Centuries.  

YLSN began with six months of sharing discussion among young and old and near and far. The next six months YLSN educated DC youth and students of all ages about the history of American hero Paul Robeson and helped organize a city-wide Youth Action Institute that over 300 children attended.

That same year, YLSN and Labor Heritage Foundation began increasing youth attendance and experiences at the annual Great Labor Arts Exchange.

Almost fifteen years later, YLSN continues to "Promote the peace...participate! Around the block and around the world."

YLSN provides Trainers and Talent (TnT) to cultural and educational events. Whether it be a marching band, media workshop, youth forum, presentations or addressing critical issues in forums large and small, YLSN is present.

Annual events generally include:

Feb. Celebration of intergenerational youth organizing with a focus on SNCC, Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee

April. Paul Robeson

June. South Africa Youth Day and Great Labor Arts Exchange

"Promote the Peace...Participate!" programs began as a summer program in June 2001 as the opening events of a 100-year campaign. As we approach YLSN's first 20 years, we invite you to participate...around the block and around the world.

YLSN organized the first Intergenerational Youth Activism Summit in February 2001, bringing together participants from over 40 years of youth organizing. A second summit was held in February 2003, uniting students from DC, MD and VA with mentors from the diaspora of civic activism in DC.

By eight years after it began, YLSN had worked with students at more than 90 local K-12 schools, 20 local universities, 200 local groups, 100 national groups, 100 international groups, and hundreds of performing artists, union members, movement veterans and youth from all 50 states. More than 20,000 people have shared experiences through YLSN events with tens of thousands more witnessing DC youth leadership in action.

We are teens, college students, parents, educators, union members, performing artists, movement veterans, youth workers, media producers and community organizers. Hundreds of volunteer musicians, performing and visual artists, media mentors, movement veterans and youth activists have provided meaningful quality experiences for everyone involved.

YLSN is a dynamic intergenerational process of creating positive learning experiences that address critical issues, around the block and around the world.  Worldyouth Media workshops teach “why watch the news when you can be the news?” The DC Youth Activism Archives (DC YAA!) provide resources to learn about youth and arts-activism from the beginning of the last century to the beginning of this century. All YLSN programs create a process of education through action.

Promote the Peace...Participate!
In June 2001, YLSN launched “2001:A Place in the Space Oddessy….Promote the Peace, Participate” youth outreach, arts, media and community networking program.

The opening event included a 30 hour art opening, two pot-luck dinners and 15 hours of live music in three venues, including Takoma Park City Hall.  

“Promote the Peace, Participate” continued with neighborhood outreach, parades, media and music workshops. The first parade was September 9th, 2001 in the Shaw neighborhood of DC. Parades in Petworth, Columbia Heights, and Mount Pleasant neighborhoods followed.

“Promote the Peace, Participate” events began in June 2001 and is intended to continue for one hundred years, or until peace with justice is a reality.

In October 2001, the United States began a global “War without End.” From experiences of violence in DC neighborhoods to witnessing global conflicts, we know that more violence does not create more peace.  Participation in peace makes more peace.

YLSN supports youth leadership and builds intergenerational networks in  DC neighborhoods to the Greater Metro area and beyond. From around the block to around the world, “Promote the Peace, Participate” is a promise to each other to make the world a better place.


The following represents YLSN organizing 1998 -- 2002.

November 22, 2002
Procession to Promote Lovingness and Non-Violence: Adams Morgan and Dupont Circle neighborhoods. Sponsored by One Common Unity friends and artists.

November 13, 2002
YLSN Executive Director Douglas Calvin facilitates workshop on recruitment and retention of participants and event planning for the Midnight Forum DC Metro Youth Program.

October 26, 2002
National Peace Demonstration in Washington DC

October 25, 2002
YLSN volunteer staff participate in “The Open World 2002 Program of the Center for Russian Leadership Management at the Library of Congress in partnership with the National Peace Foundation” exchange. Russian participants include the Head of the Volgograd City Municipal District Administration Youth Affairs Committee, the Department of Education Administration, the Chairperson on the Committee of Youth Affairs for the Orenburg Region, USAID in Russia, the Head of the Russian Federation of Ministry of Justice- the Tula Branch Region at the Department for Legal Advice and Assistance, the Director of the Department of Youth Issues in Sverdlovsk Oblast, the Deputy Head of the Department for Children Women and Family Issues at the Ministry of Labor of the Russian Federation, and the Deputy Director for Consulting and Corrective Work at the Psychological Center of Rostov-on-Don.

October 23, 2002
YLSN Executive Director Douglas Calvin provides workshop on music and art in movements for social change and skills for organizers for the Midnight Forum DC Metro Youth Program.

October 15, 2002
YLSN Executive Director Douglas Calvin participates on a panel of social change organizations for students at the Next Step Charter School.

September 22, 2002
Meet the Author potluck reception and dialogue with noted author and activist Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, author of the recently published “Outlaw Woman: A Memoir of the War Years, 1960—1975” (City Lights 2002)

September 13, 2002
Transparent Productions Present: Life Is Splendid featuring James McKinney and Shuni Tsou with The Stone Flower Project James McKinney has slowly garnered credentials as one of the Washington area's finest improvising pianists. Shuni Tsou has infused her ancient instrument (the Chinese flute) with an unapologetically modern sensibility. Together the two craft a new music from composed and improvised elements that boldly soars into uncharted territory. Expressive and exhilarating. Not to be missed.

The Stone Flower Project is another fractured gem from the mind of Thomas Stanley (Noumenal Lingam, Beyond the Frontier). Imagine Sly Stone's less radio-friendly lyrics recontextualized against a shifting soundscape of dubbish beats and piercing squalls. An attempt to explore Stone's poetic prowess in an entirely new musical neighborhood. In addition to Stanley's vocal work, the SFP features Herman Patterson (bass); Bobby Hill (turntable); Jeff Bagato (saw on records); and Damien Schnyder (French horn). Please join us for an evening of precious sound brought to you by the expeditionary music makers of your community. Life is indeed splendid. Sangha Cafe & Marketplace

August 13, 2002
YLSN Executive Director Douglas Calvin participates on a panel discussing the history, social and political dynamics that are relevant for teaching and living in DC for incoming corps of Teach for America.

August 24, 2002
Community SHINE Day: Stop Hate, Inspire Neighborly Engagement. YLSN youth, parents and community members provide non-violent counter-protest to the largest “white power” demonstration in DC since the 1930s. Over 400 neo-nazis marched on the Nation’s Capitol. Following the demonstration, neo-nazis went to a National Guard Armory outside of Baltimore and held a hate music concert. Although authorities did not close the concert down, SHINE affiliates helped generate media coverage that night on Baltimore radio and TV news about the concert.

August 20, 2002
Press Conference at the National Press Club announcing the release of a report on the neo-nazi National Alliance by the Chicago-based Center for New Community Building Democracy Initiative. Speakers were Devin Burghart, Director of the Building Democracy Initiative, David Bernstein, Washington DC Chapter Director of the American Jewish Committee, Wade Henderson, Executive Director of the Leadership Council on Civil Rights, Robin Chen Delos (19) and Miles Joyner (13) representing the Youth Leadership Support Network.

July, 2002
Executive Director Douglas Calvin provides street outreach training for the Young Women’s Project summer teen programs addressing sexual harassment and reproductive health services.

July – August, 2002
Worldyouth Media Trainings including weekly workshops with Community Impact summer Southeast teen leadership program in conjunction with the DC Independent Media Center; weekly radio production for 2Knation on WPFW FM, training teens coordinating the August 24 Community SHINE Day media outreach, and one-on-one media mentoring.

July 10 – 12, 2002
United Methodist Church and Society Seminar with United Methodist youth from New York State addressing “Religion and Racism post Sept 11.” Guest facilitators included ethnomusicologist Thomas Stanley, Actor Jennifer Deal, Hodan Hassan from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, youth spokespersons from the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, community organizer Zahara Heckscher, YLSN organizer Robin Chen Delos and an Afghani fellow-student from her high school, DC musician Michael Ivey, and several others, including a Palestinian Christian on tour in the US. Coordinated by YLSN Executive Director Douglas Calvin.

12 June, 2002
Film Showing and Reception at Cada Vez Restaurant for Connor Crawford (14) and Jeff Hatcher (13) who created the film “Satyagraha and Martin Luther King, Jr; the influence of Ghandi on the Civil Rights Movement.” They won the California State competition and entered their film in the National History Day competition at UMD-College Park. A very enthusiastic crowd included teens and Civil Rights Movement veterans. Interviews by Worldyouth Media coordinator Robin Chen Delos with Connor and Jeff were aired on WPFW FM.

July 1, 2002
The YLSN and Toronto-based TakingItGlobal launch, an interactive website serving youth and youth groups in DC, MD, VA, DE and WVA.

Saturday, May 11, 2002: Unity in Diversity March & Rally to Counter Neo-Nazi Rally at the Israeli Embassy. Sponsored by the Committee in Solidarity with the Palestinian People(CISPP)and the Youth Leadership Support Network (YLSN). Over 250 neo-nazis demonstrate then have a hate music concert in Vienna, VA.

April 20, 2002
National Peace and Justice Rally in Washington, DC. Over 70,000 participants in DC, plus thousands in San Francisco and elsewhere. YLSN Director Douglas Calvin is stage manager for the two main stages, Sylvan Theater and the National Mall, ensured performance time for 12 musical acts totaling over 50 musicians performing. DC performers include Nayas, Doc Powell and the Malcolm X Drummers, Khayumbia, Joey Dunagan and Friends acting as the stage band at Sylvan Theater and others.

9 April, 2002
Paul Robeson Birthday Celebrations occurred at DC and Virginia Schools, including school-wide announcements and cultural events. A highlight was recognition of Paul Robeson and the YLSN educational programs at the Human Rights Painting Project art opening at the AFL-CIO headquarters, sponsored by the ALF-CIO and Amnesty International USA.

February 26, 2002
Juvenile Justice Film Screening and Panel Presentation, True Reformer Building, DC. A packed hall heard from juvenile justice activists from South Dakota, Louisiana, New York, California and DC and three premier film screenings. Co-sponsored by The Building Blocks for Youth Initiative/Youth Law Center, Justice for DC Youth! Coalition, Justice Policy Institute/Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Coalition, National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice, Public Welfare Foundation, Youth Leadership Support Network, Piper, Marbury, Rudnick & Wolfe, LLP, Richfield Productions, Inc., Independent Media Center and the DC Family Policy Seminar.

Feburary 14, 2002
YLSN teens from Virginia and Delaware participate in the studio audience at MTV’s Global Forum with Colin Powell, a live simulcast with youth around the world.

February 2, 2001
From Hate to Hope Workshop. “From Hate to Hope” Workshop. Featuring Devin Burghart, Director of the Center for New Community Building Democracy Initiative based in Chicago presented a “state of hate” workshop on white supremacist organizing today and Douglas Calvin of the Youth Leadership Support Network. McDowell Formal Lounge, American University

December 15, 2001
Unity in Diversity Rally to counter 80 neo-nazis demonstrating at the Israeli Embassy.

November, 2001
“From Hate to Hope” workshop at Wilson Senior High School, presented by YLSN Executive Director Douglas Calvin.

November 10, 2001
Unity in Diversity Rally to counter 75 neo-nazis demonstrating at the Israeli Embassy.

November 10, 2001
DC Students' Peace Action Network (DCSPAN) Regional Peace Conference "DC Students Against the War: Building a Movement for Peace"
10:00 am to 5:00 pm George Washington University, Washington, DC

November 7, 2001
Neighborhood Drumming Gathering at Sherman Circle.

October 24, 2001
Neighorhood Drumming Gathering come out to the neighborhood drumming gathering at Sherman Circle, Wednesday Oct. 24 at 4 p.m.Sherman Circle is located at Kansas Ave. and 5th St. NW. Through music, this follow-up of Saturday's People's Parade to Promote the Peace will encourage communication, creativity, and friendship amongthe youth of Petworth/Brightwood. Please come out and bring drums, harmonicas, horns, shakers, and other musical instruments. Be heard, be visible and participate to promote the peace.

October 20, 2002
People’s Parade to Promote the Peace in Petworth, DC. Parade started from Grant Circle, to Paul Robeson Park and ended at Sherman Circle, sponsored by the Youth Leadership Support Network and the Rhythm Workers Union.

October 10 – 20, 2002
Banner Making, Community Outreach and Musical Offerings throughout the week leading up to the People’s Parade to Promote the Peace…Participate.
September 30, 2001: YLSN "Promote the Peace" banner forms front of peace march of 3000 people, including the Rhythm Workers Union parade percussion ensemble. The banner and RWU featured in local, national and international press. Photo is used for the front cover and September month in the Syracuse Cultural Workers 2003 Peace Calendar.

September 22, 2001
Fall Equinox and Celebration of Life Social, featuring Doc Powell and the Malcolm X Drummers and Dancers (drum, dance and pray for peace), Blacktricity, and many DC performers. First set begins 6pm, last set closes 6am.

September 11, 2001
NYC and Washington, DC attacked. DC emergency plans not put into effect because they did not exist. Period of mourning begins.

September 7, 2001
People's Parade for Peace in Shaw Neighborhood, NW. Featuring the children of Manna Community Development Corporation after-school program.

September 4 - 7, 2001
YLSN team works with 35 pre-teens and teens at Manna After School program, including painting, puppet-making, peace-making, journalism, dance, cheers, and parade preparations.

July - August, 2001
Muralist Marela Zacarias works with Latin American Youth Center teens to design and paint 110 foot mural at Columbia Heights Metro/Farmers' Market.

July 29, 2001
YLSN coordinates anti-nazi presence at neo-nazi rally, German Embassy. Nazi's outnumbered 2 to 1. Massive local TV coverage.

July 27, 2001
YLSN participates in DC Independent Media Center training for Community Impact summer youth program.

July 20, 2001
YLSN provides banner makers, youth facilitators and seven-piece hip hop band for Takoma Park, MD Park and Recreation Department overnight youthnight with 80 youth.

July 12, 2001
People's Parade for Peace, from Malcolm X Park to Justice Park, Columbia Heights neighborhood.

July 9 - July 13, 2001
Seminar on "Youth, Violence, and Media" for United Methodist Youth from Ohio. Facilitators include Noskilz, Chris Strohm, Michael Ivy, Douglas Calvin, John Friedrich, Marela Zacarias, and others. Site visits include time with youth from the Community Education and Economic Development (CEED) youth leadership program, and Cada Vez community cyber-cafe a clean-up of Justice Park, and community outreach.

July 3 - July 7, 2001
Seminar on "Tolerance" for United Methodist Youth from Kansas. Facilitators include Linda Schade, Stan Hall, Luci Murphy, Douglas Calvin, Marela Zacarias and a site visit to the Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League (SMYAL)

July 2, 2001
YLSN Executive Director Douglas Calvin facilitates workshop on "Youth Culture, White Supremacy, and Media" for United Methodist youth from South Carolina.

June 28, 2001
YLSN Executive Director Douglas Calvin facilitates workshop on "Youth Culture, Race, and Violence" for United Methodist Youth seminar.

Solstice, 2001
Rhythm Workers Union percussion parade ensemble founded at Jessup Blair Park, Silver Spring, MD.

June 17 - 19, 2001
Great Labor Arts Exchange and free performance at the National Labor College, AFL-CIO. YLSN facilitates youth workshops and performances.

June 15 - 16, 2001
"DC 2001: A Space in the Place Odyssey" begins with 30 hour art opening, 15 hours live music at three venues, and the beginning of the Great Labor Arts Exchange. Music included Doc Powell and the Malcolm X Drummers, Moya, Anne Feeney, Rebel Voices and many, many more.

June 11 - 15, 2001
YLSN "Promote the Peace...Participate" banner designed and painted by Marela Zacarias and volunteers, at the Electric Maid, Takoma Park, MD.

June 7 - 8, 2001
Seminar on the Holocaust and Decision-Making with United Methodist Youth from Sparta, IL. Workshop facilitators include Thomas Stanley, Marela Zacarias, Douglas Calvin, and others.

May 30 - June 1, 2001
Seminar on Sexuality and AIDS, with United Methodist Youth from Marion, KS. Workshop facilitators include Metro Teen AIDS, the Empower Program, Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League (SMYAL), DC Prevention Works Needle Exchange Program, Stan Hall, Douglas Calvin, and Marela Zacarias.

May 19, 2001
Unity and Diversity Day and Voters March participation, National Mall.

May 19, 2001
Evening "Spring Forward" YLSN fundraiser musicians jam for artists and activists at Paul's Place. Special guest Pedro Perez Sarduy, Cuban Poet. (Who's Paul? Paul Robeson was a great American artist-activst of the 20th Century. So where's his place? Anywhere art and activism merge)

May 4, 2001
Strategy and Solidarity meeting at Cardozo High School. Youth organizers from over 10 groups from around DC meet to discuss ways of supporting each other's work.

April 28, 2001
Community Coalition for Peace and Justice Founding Conference and DC Writers Corps poetry reading, Martin Luther King Jr. Library

April 26, 2001
Citywide DCPS Service Learning Fair, University of the District of Columbia. YLSN Director Douglas Calvin facilitates two workshops on gun violence with 80 students from 12 high schools.

April 24, 2001
Workshop with United Methodist Women seniors from rural Indiana concerning white supremacy and youth organizing.

April 24, 2001
Memory Babe: Remembering Jack Kerouac evening with author Gerald Nicosia, Takoma Park, MD.

April 22, 2001
Earth Day celebration at Jesup Blair Park, Silver Spring, MD. to protect the park from development.

April 22, 2001
Meet the Authors' Reception for Gerald Nicosia, author of "Home to War, A History of the Vietnam Veterans Movement," and John Ross, author of "The War Against Oblivion: The Zapatista Chronicles," at the Saloun, DC.

April 21, 2001
An Evening with author John Ross at Studio 2412.

April 20, 2001
Art opening by Mexican artist-muralist Marela Zacarias and reading by author John Ross at the Lost Dog Cafe, Shepardstown, WVA.

April 7, 2001
YLSN Spring Forward Party, celebrating the 103rd anniversary of Paul Robeson's birth. Featuring Cuban poet Pedro Perez Sarduy and an amazing assembly of one rockin' houseband.

March 24, 2001
Sol & Soul production of “Get Ready” spoken word, music and theater performance

March 18, 2001
Sell a Cell youth satire performance by youth attendees of a Universalist Unitarian Social Justice Conference. YLSN network members Elizabeth Croyden and Douglas Calvin performed original spoken word as part of the performance.

March 17, 2001
YLSN Executive Director Douglas Calvin participated on a three-person panel addressing “how to measure your political effectiveness,” for youth participants at the World Federalist Association national conference.

March 11, 2001
Participated in day-long cultural workshops and performances at the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange, sponsored by the Community Coalition for Peace and Justice.

March 10, 2001
Free Tibet march and demonstration from Dupont Circle to the China Embassy

March 9, 2001
YLSN network musicians back “Barrelhouse Bonnie” performance for Friends of the Earth Conference, at the University of the District of Columbia.

February 15, 2001
Workshop with Methodist Youth Group from upstate NY.

February 3-4, 2001
YLSN-sponsored “Study and Struggle: Intergenerational Youth Activist Summit, Celebrating 41 Years of Modern Youth Movements in the U.S.A.,” at the Josephine Butler Center. Over 200 attendees included veterans from the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, the DC Student Coalition against Apartheid and Racism, and a wide variety of DC-based youth organizations, the DC Independent Media Center, and out-of-town guests from NYC, Quebec, San Francisco, and Jackson, MS. Eleven cultural performances were interspersed with discussion panels, small group discussions and informal networking.

January 20, 2001
Protests at the inauguration of George W. Bush

January 19, 2001
Kaffa House Restaurant cultural reception and concert for anti-inauguration protestors

November 20, 2000
Mayor’s Youth Summit

May 2000
YLSN coordinated DC youth representatives to the media for the Million Mom March, including a training of how to be interviewed, facilitating the teen media briefing and interviews at the march. DC teens from Wilson High School and Covenant House youth conducted dozens of interviews throughout the day with press from around the world.

April 2000
Protests at IMF and World Bank HQ's in Washington, DC. YLSN facilitates youth trainings on how to be interviewed by the media and connects youth of color PaperTiger TV (NYC) with Sol & Soul Spoken Resistance performance.

June 1999
The Labor Heritage Foundations’ Great Labor Arts Exchange/YLSN Youth Workshops and Performance. For the first time in 21 years, the GLAE included local scholarships for area youth and workshops for conference youth from around the country to examine their role as youth. Participants included 14 youth, elders and YLSN Board members Sam Jannotta and Douglas Calvin.

January - May 1, 1999
The YLSN participated in a mentorship role with young organizers from Public Allies and the Alliance for Justice who planned a Youth Action Institute that brought over 300 teens from throughout Washington, DC together in a day of workshops and dialogues. The YLSN led a workshop for over 30 teens at the Institute on using video to “tell your stories”, and additionally videotaped and photographed the Institute.

April 14, 1999
Inaugural event for the YLSN at the George Meany National Labor College, honoring the 101st birthday of Paul Robeson and introducing various artists in the YLSN network to each other. The highly successful event included Lifepieces to Masterpieces, a young black male arts and theater ensemble, a Native American representative offering prayers, Luci Murphy and Ken Giles connecting black and Jewish experiences through songs of social activism, labor singer Joe Glazer and a ten piece house band playing jazz renditions of “Ole Man River,” “AfroBlue,” and other songs to an enthusiastic and appreciative audience. The evening was dedicated to three North American Indigenous activists who were killed in Columbia earlier that year and to all victims of killing fields and political violence around the world.

November, 1998
YLSN formally incorporates in Maryland.

Many other workshops, trainings, and cultural events wove a rich tapestry that demonstrates the compelling reasons why the Youth Leadership Support Network was formed. The initial goals of the YLSN -- to develop the overall context of the network, build relationships and provide direct services to DC area youth – were met with outstanding support and evaluations.

Youth Leadership Support Network
PO Box 5372 | Takoma Park, MD 20913 | 202.316.4403

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