The Unita Blackwell Young Women’s Leadership Institute (YWLI), named for the first black woman elected mayor in Mississippi, is a leadership youth program. The mission is to create and foster a safe space for a network of young, black women from the 77 counties that make up the Black Belt of Alabama, Southwest Georgia, and the Mississippi Delta. Between the ages of 15 and 24, these young women are provided opportunities to grow, nurture, and thrive in their personal and leadership development.

Each year since 2005, these young women gather on the historic campus of Tougaloo College in Jackson, Mississippi, for a five-day fresh leadership intensive cohort of future leaders. During the Institute, participants engage in interesting, challenging, and interactive activities designed to increase leadership skills, acquaint and enhance understanding of the Human Rights Agenda. Young women learn about the rich contributions of southern rural black women to civil and human rights and experience the rich culture of the southern black experience.

SRBWI young women are involved in all SRBWI local, state, and regional gatherings and trainings. Examples of activities include HIV/AIDS education, public policy and advocacy trainings, SRBWI’s Black Women’s Hall of Fame, Women in Agriculture, Women on the Move Transportation Company, and Southern Journeys Sewing Project.

The YWLI is dedicated to bringing up a new generation of Southern rural Black women who stand up for social and economic justice through education and advocacy surrounding the issues that impact their lives, mainly in the most holistic ways possible. In honoring the Late Mayor Unita Blackwell, her legacy continues through the work of SRBWI and YWLI and particularly with this generation of young women.