Davia Young believes in the power of the collective. It’s this belief that inspires her work as a participatory action researcher, a research method that centers community inquiry and social change. Davia used these skills as the Social Justice Philanthropy Fellow at CoThinkk, where she mapped the organizations’ complex and awe-inspiring impact.
Her voice for justice is unwavering. Whether she is engaged with leaders in the Jewish community of her hometown or hosting a house party, Davia works to be a part of building a world that welcomes all.
Here she shares about how research can be used for liberation, how she found her voice as an anti-Zionist Jew, and why she chooses hard hobbies like running and Ultimate Frisbee…
We’re aiming to do deeper level, systems change work…CoThinkk wants to be able to give out financial support but also do the deeper work that is aiming to shift narratives, create visibility for people of color, cultivate leadership opportunities, and show what equitable relationships really can be for institutions and for people in Asheville and Western North Carolina.
I am Jewish. I grew up going to reform synagogue in Durham my whole life–I did the whole shebang–Hebrew school, Sunday school, bat mitzvah, confirmation, camp, youth group, all the things. There was always a part of the narrative around Israel that never sat right with me, but I didn’t have the tools to be able to question or identify exactly what I didn’t agree with until I got to college…I had the opportunity to go to Israel and Palestine on a trip, and that when I realized for the first that there had been a narrative that had been almost forced into me around Zionism and right of the state Israel to exist that I fundamentally just didn’t agree with. I had this period in my life where there was this separation of me–if I don’t identify as Zionist, I probably can’t be Jewish because I had been taught that they were the same thing…The hard part about it for me was that the values that I learned from my Jewish upbringing are the ones that showed me what injustice was in Israel and in Palestine and around the world for all refugees…How I am practicing my Judaism is by doing this justice work. This is me practicing my Judaism. Me practicing my Judaism is being anti-Zionist and working for pro-Palestinian organizations like Jewish Voices for Peace and for BDS–boycott, divest, and sanctions and calling out injustice as I see it, whether or not people I’m in community with agree with me.