RAISE IT UP! Youth Arts & Awareness (RIU) is an award-winning organization that promotes youth engagement, expression, and empowerment through the use of performance, literary arts, and social justice activism. We envision a world where youth are recognized, valued, and supported as emerging thought leaders and artist-activists, proactively creating their lives and shaping the life of their communities.

* Young people who have participated in RIU have had opportunities to be featured performers, panelists, and educators all over the country including Atlanta, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Chicago, and more. They’ve been featured in a number of local, statewide, and national publications. Click “The Scoop“link to check out RAISE IT UP! in the press.

* Our Youth Activists receive intensive training in community organizing and social justice principles and have led community campaigns and hosted events to raise awareness about healthy disparities, food deserts, sexual assault, HIV awareness, police brutality, community violence, failing schools, and more.

* Since our inception, RIU has served thousands of young people, in Flint, Genesee County and beyond by providing high quality programming aimed at cultivating creative expression and raising social awareness, including in-school workshops and assemblies, research opportunities, internships, creative writing workshops, community forums, dialogues, talent shows, town hall meetings, open mic nights, poetry slams, social justice retreats, youth conferences, direct-action activism and more!

Young people have always been on the leading-edge and at the forefront of all social justice and civil rights movement. More than ever, they need the support of caring adults and invested communities. RIU is deeply committed to providing young people with the knowledge, tools, resources, and opportunities to lead us into a more just, equitable, and inclusive world for all.

Our Programs


Workshops & Assemblies
Through the Workshops & Assemblies program, RIU provides schools, organizations, and places of worship with the opportunity to engage young people using art, performance, and dialogue.  These workshops cover a wide range of critical issues including  identity, communication, youth voice/empowerment, self-esteem, body image, healthy relationships, media literacy, social media, activism, gender, race, conflict resolution, community organizing, social justice, mindfulness and more.


Youth Poet Laureate Program
RIU in partnership with Urban Word NYC, Penmanship Books and the Academy of American Poets is launching the Flint Youth Poet Laureate program in 2016. The Flint Youth Poet Laureate Program will identify young writers and leaders who are committed to civic & community engagement, poetry & performance, human relations, diversity and education within the city and surrounding areas. This is a part of a national model headed by Urban Word NYC and currently running in several cities across the U.S.

In 2016, RIU will begin accepting submissions from young poets, writers, leaders and activists ages 13-19 from the city of Flint and surrounding areas who are interested in representing Flint as the inaugural Flint Youth Poet Laureate. A group of judges, comprised of writers, educators, artists, and activists, will choose 3-5 finalists who are recognized as Flint Youth Poet Ambassadors. Of those finalists, one will be selected as the city’s Youth Poet Laureate and will serve in that office for 1 year, after which a new Youth Poet Laureate will be named.

Along with winning the prestigious title of Flint Youth Poet Laureate, the winning poet will also win a national book deal from Penmanship Books as well as a work with RIU staff to host a city-wide (and possibly county-wide) tour.  This is a new initiative and many of the details will be forthcoming in the next couple of months.


Youth Writers Series
The Youth Writers Series is designed to help young people develop their skills writers and to learn various forms of writing including creative/fiction, non-fiction, screenwriting, poetry and more. In addition youth writers have the opportunity to be published in the RIU anthology and compete to become the city’s Youth Poet Laureate.

Youth Activists
The RIU Youth Activists are the core leadership of RIU. These young people meet regularly to plan projects that blend art and community activism. Upon receiving training that helps them increase their understanding of key social justice issues, the Youth Activists are supported by RIU staff as they discover and use their unique talents to create positive social change in the community

Super Talent Show
The Super Talent Show (STS) is an annual event hosted by RIU which provides local and regional artists with the opportunity to share their creativity, gain valuable exposure and experience – and win a $1000 grand prize! STS features an esteemed panel of judges comprised of arts leaders and industry professionals who provide contestants with critical feedback, opportunities to hone their craft, and gain exposure within the arts industry. Prior to the show, there are community workshops which explore critical community issues.
Youth Poetry Team 
Every year, RAISE IT UP! recruits and trains a team of youth poets between the ages of 13 and 19 to go compete at the Brave New Voices International Poetry Slam Festival. This annual event has convened in San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia, Atlanta, and DC and is the biggest poetry event in the world.  Brave New Voices brings together over 600 youth from over 50 cities for 5 days of workshops, performances, dialogues, and forums and culminates in a poetry slam competition. Youth who are interested in joining the team are offered training and coaching and must compete in local poetry slams to win a spot on the team.


Performance, Training, and Consultation
RIU staff and youth provide artistic performances, trainings, and consultation. We specialize in the creation, and implementation of performances, trainings, curriculum, and initiatives that focus on social justice, civic engagement, community organizing, social activism, current events, literary/performance art, youth voice/empowerment, media literacy, event planning, grant writing, project collaboration, and more

For more information about our programs, contact Program Director, Lyndava Williams at 810-394-3113 or at lyndava@raiseitupyouth.org.