Love First is dedicated to supporting young people. Strong-Allen says Love First was founded by her wife, Chauntyll Allen, after recognizing a need for support of the whole child within the education system.
“When the unrest happened with George Floyd, we were like, okay, we’re both educators, and so we were naturally like,’ how are the children?’ So we would check in, we tapped in with some students, and saw what they needed,” recalled Strong-Allen. “We had our first event at Maxwell Elementary, and we gave away 250 Nike slides, we had Glo come through and DJ, we had food trucks, and just really was trying to create an atmosphere of joy, because we believe that joy is our greatest form of resistance against white supremacy, and especially Black joy, right?”
Goal mapping with youth is a crucial element of Love First programming. Strong-Allen describes the impact she witnessed on Black and brown students in the school system.
“I think that the school system does a really good job of creating feelings of hopelessness for our students,” she said. “We do mutual aid – making sure that our youth are on a path to success, that they know somebody cares enough about them to really check in about what they need throughout this process. A lot of people discredit the voices of our youth and underestimate their intelligence.”
Strong-Allen says while she loves teaching, doing this work outside the school system gave her more freedom to dismantle barriers faced by youth that result in a mindset of defeat.
“I think the ability to truly create spaces and not have to worry about anybody in a white supremacist system making you jump through these hoops, or making you go through these processes that are unfair to youth has been really liberating,” reflected Strong-Allen. “Because I gave all my time and energy to the school system. I was exhausted by the time I got home. So I'm not necessarily getting the chance to go to the rec game to go and be out on the train station to pass out backpacks to connect with people.”
Strong-Allen says the greatest reward is helping young Black girls take pride in their identity.
“And being able to give that to them younger and younger and younger so that they don't have to wait until they're 25 or 35 or 45, or sometimes beyond that. To say, hold up, I'm worth investing in, hold up. I know that I have purpose. I don't have to wait on anybody else to validate that for me. I think that is my biggest reward.”
You can find out more about Love First and their upcoming events at Love-First-TC-Dot-Org.