It’s hard to believe it, but summer 2013 is almost here — and with it, the Detroit REPRESENT! 2013 Fellowship!
This year’s fellowship promises to be a ton of fun, as well as transformative experience for for the small group of youth who participate.
The fellowship, which will host 5 LGBTQ youth of color from across the city of Detroit, has three goals:
1. To create a space for LGBTQ youth of color from Detroit to form meaningful and intimate relationships, in order to gain support, and to better understand the intersections of our individual experiences.
2. To act as a base-building effort for Detroit REPRESENT! to recruit, train, and engage with youth from a diverse range of experiences, in order to expand our leadership and further the common ownership or our collective.
3. To equip LGBTQ youth of color from Detroit with a range of media skills and tools for expression, that we can use to address systemic inequalities, leverage opportunities for education and employment, and expand our capacities to communicate, lead, and evolve.
Youth who participate will meet for 3 hours each week, with various other opportunities to participate, like attending this year’s Allied Media Conference, meeting with local organizers and collectives, and will ultimately create a short video piece to document what we’ve learned, and to present collective vision for the future.
Youth who participate in the Detroit REPRESENT! 2013 Fellowship will develop 5 essential competencies:
A. Building Trust, relationships, and bonds, as a fellowship
As LGBTQ youth of color from Detroit, we are often isolated. Our experiences are oftentimes invalidated, as the media feeds us lies about who we are, where we’re from, and what we need. In order to change things for the better, we need to create community rooted in mutual respect, dedication to the working towards the world we know we deserve, and tight bonds that help us to better understand where each other comes from, and how all our experiences are connected.
B. Basic media skills foundation
Because the media is being used so vigorously to keep us down, learning how to wield these same tactics to defend and empower ourselves will be a necessary element of the fight to thrive against the odds. During this fellowship, we’ll produce a short video piece; but we’ll also have space and time to explore notions of what “media” is, and to envision new ways to create culture, communicate messages, and break down barriers. When we talk about “the media,” we’re often discussing magazines, TV, books, and billboards — but what happens when we dig a little deeper? We’ll explore the “why” and the “how” behind our firmest beliefs, and use this background to imagine new methods to shift the way people think about us, and the way we see ourselves.
C. Articulating experiences to inform, inspire, and mobilize
These days, a lot of people are talking about queer youth. From the It Gets Better campaign, inspiring a push for firmer anti-bullying policies and legislation; to the fledgling conversation by national media outlets of LGBTQ youth homelessness, people are talking about us more and more, it seems. While it’s great that others are starting to prioritize our concerns, sometimes it’s queer youth voices that least often find an audience. If we don’t speak for ourselves, we run the risk of being spoken for by others. Let’s think about the important experiences we’ve had, injustices we’ve been dealt, struggles we’ve overcome, and dreams we share. These are stories that need telling — how can we use media to make sure others listen? Better yet, how can we use media to make our audience care enough to act?
D. Community Outreach skills
As youth organizers, mobilizing our community can be hard. We’re not social workers, public health researchers, or politicians. Most of us don’t own cars, or have any spare money. If we’re able to write grant proposals, it’s unlikely we’ll be funded. If we propose new programs, policies, or events, we’ve got to fight hard and long to get anybody to listen. Despite all this — maybe even because of it — youth organizers are some of the most powerful change-makers on the planet. During this fellowship, we’ll learn skills for reaching our peers, delivering a message, facilitating meetings and research and events and campaigns — and making sure that work translates into actual results.
E. Anti-Oppression and Me
As youth, Detroiters, people of color, and LGBTQ folks, life is often hard. But conversations about “anti-oppression” are often academic, alienating, and exclusionary to youth. The problem is that, despite our absence from the conversation, oppression is a rouine part of life for us. Learning how privilege and oppression function in our communities and lives is important. During our fellowship, we’ll get real about the issues that impact us, and learn more about what people are doing to change things. By exploring our existing passions and skills, we’ll dream up new and exciting ways to turn the system upside down — and plan for action!