Journalist, poet, and activist Ivy Joan Young dies at 75

Ivy Joan Young.
Ivy Joan Young.
Sharon Farmer Photography

Ivy Joan Young departed life on April 24, 2023, at the age of 75. She was born to Dorothy Elizabeth (Lewis) Young and Joseph Henry Young on December 23, 1947, in the District of Columbia. Both parents and her younger brother Ronald Alexander Young, Esq. preceded her in death.

RESISTANCE framed her political activism and her life in service of justice, fairness, decency, egalitarianism, feminism, honor, principle, authenticity — all of which were among her core, uncompromising values. From the time she graduated Eastern High School in her native Washington, D.C. until her health declined, Ivy Young stood in the world as a voice and advocate for a better human existence for us all.

Ivy contributed her time and talent to community building for social justice on an international scale. She worked at VISTA in Chicago, IL; the Center for Black Education and Drum and Spear Book Store in Washington, D.C.; the Venceremos Brigade in Cuba; Astraea National Lesbian Action Foundation in NYC; the 1974 Sixth Pan African Congress hosted in Tanzania East Africa, and the Southern Africa Support Project that stood against the oppressive apartheid system in that region.

Speaking truth to power through word and song were her pathways. Ivy created poetry and leaves a beautifully rich and extensive body of work. She was part of the Sophie’s Parlor women’s radio collective on WPFW-FM Pacifica radio, reported news for WHUR-FM Howard University radio, served as General Manager at WWOZ-FM jazz radio in New Orleans, LA, worked as Public Affairs Director for WBAI-FM in NYC, and wrote for the Southern Africa News Collective.

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force launched the first initiative on behalf of lesbian and gay families in 1989 to secure recognition of lesbian and gay rights. They chose Ivy as its Family Project Director and in that role Ivy wrote and published the first ever Domestic Partners Manual. She was an organizer for Lesbians and Gays for Jesse Jackson in 1988 and consulted the People of Color stage at the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights in 1987.

Twin loves of music and justice led Ivy Young to serve as a U.S. delegate to the 1985 Third International Festival of New Song in Ecuador. She staffed both the Smithsonian Institution’s Program in African American Culture and the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage’s Folklife Festival.  Additionally, she served as staff of the Roadwork women’s cultural production company that organized SisterFire concerts in 1982-85. She was administrator for Sweet Honey in the Rock 2001-2011, editor for the Sweet Honey in the Rock documentary, “Gotta Make This Journey,” and member of “In Process…”, Sweet Honey’s song workshop.

Ivy Young’s surviving family members are her youngest sibling Michelle Marie Young, nieces Jade Michelle Keith and Camille Adrienne Keith, and great-niece Joy Anajli Jade Manning, who are among so many friends and colleagues that love and respect her and who celebrate her life, memory, and unwavering dedication to justice.

A late summer community event to celebrate Ivy’s life and legacy is being planned. Details are forthcoming. For updates send inquiries to