Nkisi Fellows


The goal of the Nkisi Fellows is to combine peer education and leadership training for young women of African descent in Brooklyn in grades 9-12, with a strong emphasis on empowerment and team building. Addressing the critical issues of emotional health through peer outreach and education, art, and advocacy, Nkisi Fellows build their self esteem, develop leadership skills, and learn to make responsible, empowering choices. After a rigorous training program, Nkisi Fellows share their knowledge with other teens by creating political media and facilitating workshops around Brooklyn and the greater NYC areas. Nkisi Fellows undergo a two-month training and then together, lead community-based workshops of their own design.

Nkisi: Spirits, or an object that a spirit inhabits. It is frequently applied to a variety of objects used throughout the Congo Basin in Central Africa that are believed to contain spiritual powers or spirits.

What makes our program unique is that it focuses on emotional wellness specifically in young women of African descent. Emotional wellness is about identity and “a firm sense of self-esteem” as Dr. King described it and by placing a focus on this aspect of health, both in the Nkisi Fellows and the workshop participants, we are able to help mediate and defy the toxic ideas about the inferiority of Black culture, and Black people, in general, but Black women and girls specifically. It gives participants and Fellows freedom to see themselves as the beautiful, lovable, intelligent, capable, and worthy people they are; freedom to see themselves beyond the negative stereotypes that have burdened and limited them; freedom to participate fully in all aspects of global society; freedom to see themselves in a truthful, whole new light: as fully human and gifted, requiring no explanation or justification. In using this framework, we are able to transcend the current parameters of a race-attentive frame that focuses almost exclusively on boys, and a gender-focused frame that largely erases race as a factor that affects girls.

We are currently accepting applications for our 2016-17 Nkisi Fellows.