The Kansas City Defender Announces The Formation (& Inaugural Cohort) of “The Young Defenders Fellowship” Program

The Young Defenders Fellowship program is a semester-long experience for young (Black and brown) Kansas Citians to gain experience in journalism and community organizing by immersing themselves in The Kansas City Defender and surrounding media landscape. The post The Kansas City Defender Announces The Formation (& Inaugural Cohort) of “The Young Defenders Fellowship” Program appeared first on Kansas City Defender.

The Kansas City Defender Announces The Formation (& Inaugural Cohort) of “The Young Defenders Fellowship” Program

The Defender’s Inaugural “Young Defender Fellow” Cohort of Fall 2023. (Vaughan Harrison / Seen Productions)
From top left to right – Writing Fellows: Lauren Winston, Lynnie Holl and Lonyae Coulter. From bottom left to right – Organizing Fellow: Bethlehem Kelecha; The Defender’s Manging Editor and Fellowship Coordinator: Nasir Anthony Montalvo.

Emerging from the ashes of the 2020 “Black Lives Matter” uprisings, The Kansas City Defender fills a glaring gap, serving as a radical news beacon for Black communities across Missouri and Kansas. Our foundational mission is unyielding: to arm our community with the vital information that ignites collective mobilization and purposeful organization toward liberation.

Key to attaining that liberation is our youth. The most prominent aspects of “The American Dream” all revolve around young people–starting a family, buying a house, moving to “safe” neighborhoods, going to prestigious schools. Yet, all these aspects (which are already extremely flawed) subject young people to a future they have no say in. In fact, we are watching, in real-time, youth be stripped of their power and autonomy so that they may be molded to uphold white gerontocracy.

To that, we stand readily opposed. It is time we let youth decide our own collective futures.

“The Young Defenders Fellowship” program is borne out of the idea that Black youth deserve a voice in reporting on and organizing for Black liberation–that young voices should be valued no less than their adult counterparts. We have sat idly by for too long as we let folks who’ve lived through four generations continue to decide what is best for them.

Through this program, Defender Fellows will immerse themselves in abolitionist theory, pedagogical studies of Black oppression, the history of the Radical Black Press, the written word as a liberatory tool, and how to organize effectively. All fellows are stipended, and will, dually, receive one-on-one mentorship from Defender Founder, Ryan Sorrell, in achieving their personal and professional goals. Fellows will work for The Defender for one semester–graduating from the program on December 29, 2023.

Learn more about the Fellows selected for the inaugural class of this prestigious program below.

Writing Fellows

Lauren Winston of Young Defenders Fellowship

Lauren Winston

she/her/hers or they/them/theirs.

Lauren Winston is committed to understanding social healing and the ways that community is strengthened. She graduated from Vanderbilt University in May of 2023 with a B.S. in Human and Organizational Development and a secondary major in Medicine, Health & Society.

Receiving honors for her research in reparations for Black and Indigenous people, she has developed experience anayzing law and policy. Learning with organizations in Nashville,TN; Kansas City, MO; and Durham, NC has supported her growth in learning about healthcare, community engagement, and the influences of policy.

Project: Spatial development of Kansas City and its effects on how Black joy is experienced or access

Lonyae Coulter of Young Defenders Fellowship

Lonyae Coulter


Lonyae Coulter recently graduated from Texas Christian University with a Bachelors of Arts degree in Journalism, and plans to attend a graduate program for journalism in the Fall of 2024.

After obtaining her master’s degree, she would love to work for a news station or a news organization that revolves around social justice and equity specifically reporting on the African American community and other marginalized communities.

Coulter is also a proud member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Incorporated.

Project: Race discrimintation in the 2024 political atmosphere

Lynnie Holl of Young Defenders Fellowship

Lynnie Britt Holl

they/them/theirs or she/her/hers.

Lynnie Holl is an aspiring short-story writer whose works focuses on self-reflection, navigating
childhood, and overcoming circumstances. Lynnie is currently at work in completing two short
stories titled “My Blind, Blue Eye”, a story of young vibrant girl who loses her confidence after
going blind in one eye and “Pork Skins and a Trench Lighter”, a story of a young man and his
uncle traveling through small towns in Oklahoma as they head back from a vacation.

As a Compliance Analyst by day, Lynnie finds time to write during their free time and enjoy the
ambiance of coffee shops while doing so.

Project: High school sports and unearthing its unspoken racial dynamics

Drey Diggs

he/him/his or they/them/theirs.

Drey Diggs is a Writing Fellow at the Defender researching structures of anti-Black violence and the political movements that challenge them. He believes that through study and struggle, we can create a new world that does not demand the suffering of the many for the luxury of the few.

Drey is currently a senior at Pomona College studying Philosophy. After graduating, he hopes to pursue a graduate degree in Library and Information Sciences and return to Kansas City to continue work with various abolitionist organizations.

Project: The Fight for Justice– Past, Present, Future

Organizing Fellow

Bethelhem Kelecha of Young Defenders Fellowship

Bethlehem Kelecha


Bethlehem is in her last semester of undergrad at the University of Kansas studying English and Economics. She aims to go to law school and become a practicing attorney. During her time in undergrad she has aided in political economy research at both KU and the University of Southern California.

Outside of school, Bethlehem is passionate about poetry and art. She loves going to open mics around the city and discovering new artists.

Project: Creating sustainable methods of community outreach

Fellowship Coordinator

Nasir Montalvo of Young Defenders Fellowship

Nasir Anthony Montalvo


Montalvo is the current Managing Editor for The Kansas City Defender. They began their work for The Defender pursuing an archival project unearthing Black LGBTQIA2S+ Kansas City history entitled {B/qKC}, recently grant-funded by The University of Kansas and Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Montalvo graduated from their alma mater, Stevens Institute of Technology, in May 2021, where they had extensive history as a student organizer–founding their University’s first and only space for marginalized community members, starting a Black writers column in their student newspaper, and leading protest efforts against Gianforte Family Hall (named after racist and anti-trans Governor of Montana, Greg Gianforte).

As Coordinator of this Fellowship experience, Montalvo is designing the experience from the ground-up––coalescing human-centered design and abolitionist praxis to help achieve Fellows’ goals.

A deep congratulations to this prestigious class of Fellows. Those looking to apply for “The Young Defenders Fellowship Program” in Spring 2024 are encouraged to subscribe to our newsletter to hear about it first.

The post The Kansas City Defender Announces The Formation (& Inaugural Cohort) of “The Young Defenders Fellowship” Program appeared first on Kansas City Defender.