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, critical thinkers, and artist-activists, proactively creating their lives and the life of their communities.
With years of experience in activism and community arts, RAISE IT UP! co-founders, Natasha Thomas-Jackson and Lyndava Williams decided to create an organization aimed at empowering youth to use their unique talents to become creative community activists and socially conscious artists. In 2009, RAISE IT UP! was officially launched through a generous grant by the Ruth Mott Foundation. Operating under the fiscal sponsorship of the United Way of Genesee County, RAISE IT UP! continues to provide safe and healthy avenues for youth voice and creative expression.
Natasha Thomas-Jackson is a social justice activist, writer, feminist, performance artist, consultant, and the co-founder/executive director of RAISE IT UP! Youth Arts & Awareness, an organization that promotes youth engagement, expression, and empowerment through performance, literary art, and social activism. Natasha has been featured on National Public Radio (NPR) and her writing has been published by AlterNet, John Hopkins University, and the Black Congressional Caucus.
As a performance artist, Natasha was featured in the Michigan Emmy Award-winning short documentary, Making Genes Dance. As a member of Neo Griot, a collective of writers, dancers, performers, educators, and activists, she released 2 group albums, 1 solo album, and shared the stage with the likes of Slum Village, Grace Lee Boggs, and the Last Poets. In 2005, she was a member of Flint’s first-ever National Poetry Slam Team and in 2008, she received the National Hip Hop Political Convention’s Up & Coming Social Justice Artist-Activist Award. In 2012, she was recognized by the Detroit Pistons for her contributions in the areas of youth development and entertainment. The Pistons and their Come Together Foundation honored her as one of their first-ever Community Impact awardees and donated $25,000 RAISE IT UP!
Natasha was selected as a 2014 Windcall Institute Resident. Windcall fosters transformative learning and leadership through residential and alumni programs that improve the quality, effectiveness, and vitality of social movements and supports the organizers who devote their lives to social justice. In 2015, Natasha was a Black Women in Arts & Media panelist for the first annual State of Black Women in Michigan Conference hosted by Mothering Justice, the Black Women’s Roundtable and the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion.
Lyndava Williams is the Co-Founder and Program Director of RAISE IT UP! Youth Arts & Awareness. After many years in the medical field, Lyndava decided to dedicate her life to community work and youth engagement. During her combined total of 18 years working for several hospital in Genesee County, including Genesys Regional Medical Center, she spent much of her time volunteering with a number of community initiatives including the Genesee County Department of Human Services, Champions in Christ Food Pantry, and more. She was the recipient of the Genesys Regional Medical Center’s You Care – And It Shows award in recognition of her passion for community and social justice. She is a mother and grandmother. Her interests and hobbies include music, photography, reading, traveling, and exploring something new every day.
Board of Directors
Joseph Lentine – President
Mona Younis-Munroe – Vice President
Qiana Towns – Secretary
Tony Sajan – Treasurer
Laura MacIntyre – Member
Andrew Morton – Member