Blog

This Year’s AMC was FIERCE!

This weekend, Marcos and Lance, two Detroit REPRESENT! organizers, attended the Allied Media Conference, where we met with seven radical activists from FIERCE NYC. Over a two-plus-hour-long lunch, the nine of us chatted each other up, discussing the parallels of queer youth of color struggle in Detroit and in New York City, and getting to know one another as we shared stories about our lives, our neighborhoods, and our dreams for something better.

Some of the subjects we discussed included the struggles of mixed-race people of color to find our places in the world, the challenge of building solidarity across communities of color, and the love and hardship that comes from organizing without a safety net. We mused over the parallels of the Stonewall Rebellion that’s so often invoked as the start of New York’s queer activist movements, and the Rebellion of 1967 that was so crucial to POC activist history in Detroit.

After talking, texting, and emailing back and forth for so long, one question some of the FIERCE organizers had for us was around what kind of work Detroit REPRESENT! is doing, in Detroit. At first, we were a little nervous. After all, FIERCE has a name for itself, and some impressive work behind it. We’re newer, so our accomplishments are still budding. At the same time, though, our friends from the east coast were super supportive, and helped us remember that our work may be newer than theirs, but is still powerful and revolutionary.

Detroit REPRESENT!, though still in its infancy, has been around since the summer of 2011. Over that time, there have been about fifteen core youth organizers involved with summer discussions, photography projects, graphic design, and plans for a youth-lead queer revolution in the D. As young folks who’ve never lead community organizing efforts before now, this is hard work. We are all challenging ourselves, celebrating successes, and making mistakes together. It’s taking a long time to establish ourselves; but we’re doing important work — building the collective that we want to exist, because we know it has the potential to change the lives of countless young LGBTQ folks of color in our home city.

For us, FIERCE’s work is a special inspiration. Just as we’re struggling now to build our base, and get our words out into the world – knowing that other members of our community all the way in NYC had a similar process when they were starting out is not only encouraging, but validates every part of this journey we’re on. Although they’re over a decade ahead of us, one reminder our dialogue brought home was the fact that this kind of work is supposed to be challenging at every stage. It’s when things feel deceptively easy that we’ve gotta’ worry.  Organizing without struggle probably means we’ve left out important voices, or ignored some tough questions.

Since our start in 2011, Detroit REPRESENT! Has brought together LGBTQ youth of color from across the city of Detroit, who might never have met before. We’ve taught traditional photography workshops, discussed the impact of mainstream media representations on our communities, and debunked ideas that the places we come from aren’t as good as others. Through our conversations and workshops, we’ve started to build relationships that sustain us, like we’re continuing to do, now. We did all of this without a single grant dollar or core organizer older than 24.

So things are taking time, but one thing FIERCE folks helped us to remember is that the process isn’t something to be afraid of. What we’re doing is valid and worthwhile and something to be proud of. It’s not as if we didn’t believe this stuff already, but hearing it from somebody who’s been there before can be incredibly healing. Thanks, y’all!

Later on, REPRESENT! folks were discussing the next steps in building our base. What we’ve done so far has been great, but we know there’s so much more to do. More stories to tell, learning to do, friends to make, and hearts to change. One idea we came up with was to put together a one-day workshop for LGBTQ youth of color from across Detroit. We’d talk about some of the concepts we discussed at the Allied Media Conference – like what it means to be “colonized,” and how we can decolonize ourselves. We can pick apart media portrayals of people like us, and maybe workshop something that feels a little closer to home. Look for that towards the end of the summer!

All in all, the Allied Media Conference this year was great! We were able to learn a lot, meet new friends, and challenge ourselves in all the best ways. So looking forward to next year… and to the rest of the summer!

Detroit REPRESENT! 2013 Fellowship is Almost Here!

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!

 If this sounds like something you or a youth you know (ages 24 and under) would like to get in on, there is totally still time — but not much! Please be in touch before Tuesday, May 7. The fellowship starts the following week. Days and times are still TBA, and based upon everyone’s schedules. 
Check out our short application, at this link,
or email lance (dot) hicks (at) gmail (dot) com for more info!
Transportation will be provided, and no experience is necessary.
Although this fellowship is unpaid, youth will gain skills (video/miscellaneous media, group facilitation, leadership development) that can lead to paid jobs, and will also be introduced to community members who may have future paid positions available. Community service hours and letters of recommendation can be provided to youth, upon request.
For any youth who wants to get started doing community organizing work, but isn’t sure quite how, this is a great introduction! This will also be a great opportunity for any youth who are already doing organizing work, and would like to team up with a like-minded group of fellows for support and friendship.
Youth must be self-identified people of color, and LGBTQ-identified. Youth don’t need to be current city of Detroit residents, but they should have a strong relationship with, history in, or ties to the city.
trans youth, girls & women, youth who did not complete high school, immigrant youth, and current high school students are all encouraged to apply!

Applications for Detroit REPRESENT 2013 Fellowship are Here!

Interested in collaborating with a group of LGBTQ youth of color from across Detroit to make media and create positive changes in your community? Check out the application for the 2013 Detroit REPRESENT! Fellowship.

Think you might be interested? Fill this out, and we’ll be in touch. Remember: if you’re not selected for the fellowship, we’ll still let you know how you can work with us in multiple ways as our collective grows and moves forward!

(P.S. if the link above didn’t work, copy this URL into your browser: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1FFFOi2-1gvRnHyyZ1SWTPz-Es7AMV1fmaXeTo9xVgxE/viewform )

 

And We’re Back!

After a few months’ break, Detroit REPRESENT! is reaching out for more youth leadership by hosting a two-month fellowship for LGBTQ youth of color from Detroit. We are specifically looking to reach out to younger youth, but anybody under age 24 is welcome. This fellowship will help determine the direction of our next collective cycle, and will help us build our collective’s base!

A number of the youth who have been involved in the project have needed to step back for various reasons; but we don’t want to see this project end before it fully blossoms! In response to the need for more youth leadership in our collective, Detroit REPRESENT! is launching an 8-week session that will equip a team of five LGBTQ youth of color from across Detroit with media-making, group-facilitation, and community organizing skills, while figuring out what our community thinks needs to change in Detroit, and how it should happen. We’re calling this project Make Us Count! and we’re inviting you to get involved!

We’ll meet for 3 hours, each week (based on everyone’s schedules), to conduct a research study in our community. The goal of the study is to build up a larger base for Detroit REPRESENT! youth leadership, while sharing skills, employment opportunities, and a platform for youth who have something to say. Youth involved in the program will be introduced to youth organizers across the city (and possibly beyond), get involved with local organizations working for change, and (of course) hit the streets to find out what kind of changes our peers want to see happen. We’re planning to do this by launching a youth-lead research study.

This won’t be like the kind of research studies you’re used to hearing about. Inspired by youth activists from across the country, we want to launch a Participatory Action Research project — where youth aren’t simply the ones being asked questions, or being analyzed; but in fact, are the ones putting together, collecting, and assessing the information, and then deciding how to use it!

The study will revolve around the experiences of our peers across the city of Detroit, including the struggles they’ve faced, and will seek to gather information about the solutions youth think would best address those problems. we’ll collect information in the form video and audio tracks, which we design and produce on our own. Best of all, the information we gather will steer our collective, as we move forward and work to bring these ideas to life. In other words, we won’t just talk about the changes we want — we’ll actually work to make them happen!

Youth who apply should be 24 or younger, self-identify as LGBTQ people of color, and be interested in working towards real change in Detroit. Meetings will be held in the beautiful Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation space in Southwest Detroit, with transportation and snacks provided.

For more information, to apply to participate in the project, or to learn how you can help, email lance.hicks@gmail.com or call 313 731 2453.

How Hot is It? Hotter than July!

Yesterday marked the 17th Annual Hotter than July Annual Gathering for LGBT Issues at the Hilton Garden Inn, downtown. It was there that Rhiannon and Lance got the chance to participate in the State of the Movement panel discussion, alongside such inspirational activists as Sharon J. Lettman-Hicks, Executive Director and CEO of the National Black Justice Coalition, and former Black Panther Ron Turner, founder of Community Health Awareness Group. We discussed community problems, and solutions that each panelist envisioned for the future. The brilliance, passion, and sheer community love in the room was tangible, making for a great conversation.

Also, both Rhiannon and Lance were rockin’ our newly-printed Detroit REPRESENT! T-Shirts! Check ’em out!

 

Wanna rock a shirt like us, and show your support? Click the “Buy Now” button below to buy one! We’re asking $15 for online ordering, but it’s sliding scale, so email info@detroitrepresent.org if you need a different price. Another way you can get a shirt of your own (as well as a “Thank-You” card, photo of the whole Detroit REPRESENT! gang, and a signed original youth art piece) is by donating to our Indiegogo Fundraising Campaign! 

we’ve officially launched the campaign to raise enough money to kick off the first cycle of Detroit REPRESENT! this October! Our budget of $6,435 will take us into December, and include the purchase of supplies we can use over and over. The skills we wanna’ built include graphic design, video production, and photography. For this, we’ll need computers, cameras, and screens (for screen printing). We also need gas money, so we can pick up and drop off youth participants, and food, for family-style dinners each week! You can help us get there, and look fierce doing it! Check out the campaign, and tell a friend!

"</p

The Search for Community Allies is On!

October may seem far off; but in reality, it’s just around the corner.

As we get ready to launch Detroit REPRESENT!, we’re looking to build a strong team of Community Allies — folks who are no longer “youth,” but who want to support the project, either before or during our launch. Community Allies can be any age, and have any identity. All we ask is that you be:

– Excited about accepting leadership and direction from youth

– Passionate about small-scale community organizing in Detroit

– Comfortable discussing race and racism in Detroit

– Comfortable discussing sexual and gender identity with youth

– Ready to build creative solutions to community problems!

We need the most support from our Community Allies in the following areas:

– Support with cooking meals and clean-up during our meetings

– Support with fundraising

– Support building strong partnerships with similar youth programs and like-minded community organizers and collectives

– Support transporting youth to and from meetings

– Participation in critical dialogues

– Event planning, and help staffing events

– Providing crisis intervention to youth

– Support with set-up and tear-down before and after meetings

If this sounds like you, email info@detroitrepresent.org

for an application, and more details about how to get involved —

and stay tuned for information about our upcoming Community Ally orientation!

This is Who We Are – Join Us!

This fall, a small group of LGBTQ youth of color from across Detroit will come together to investigate community problems, and create collaborative media solutions. 

With ever-increasing media attention turned towards the problems in Detroit, Dan Savage’s promise to LGBTQ youth that It Gets Better, Stories like Trayvon Martin’s in the national headlines, and the murders of trans youth of color right here in Detroit still mounting, Detroit REPRESENT! will provide LGBTQ youth of color from Detroit with resources, skills, and a forum to represent ourselves with boldness and authenticity, while creating solutions to the problems we struggle with on a daily basis.

This project is a response to the myth that racial identity, gender identity, and sexual orientation are fundamentally separate issues.

It’s our rebuttal to disempowering narratives of Detroit that focus on blight and abandon, while ignoring innovation and resilience.

As LGBTQ youth of color, and as Detroiters, we know that our survival is dependent upon our ability to be creative, to love one another unconditionally, to challenge racism, homophibia, transphobia, and disempowering portrayals of our communities, all at once. This project will be a forum for us to do just that.

Right now, we are looking for 2 – 3 additional project coordinators. We are specifically looking for youth ages 14 – 18, but we’d welcome older or younger youth to contact us, too! As a project coordinator, you’ll get to attend this amazing conference for free, where you’ll meet other passionate LGBTQ youth at an all-day summit. We’ll be meeting twice a week, to work on developing our project’s structure, and content. And don’t worry, if you’ve never coordinated a project like this one, before — this is a learning experience for all of us!

We’ll be hosting most of our planning meetings at the MPowerment space, in the New Center area, and while we’re still figuring out the logistics of our permanent home,

we will be able to provide transportation from anywhere in the city. 

We also want to note that, while we can’t afford to pay youth coordinators at this time, we have been hard at work, thinking up funding options so that, down the road, we may be able to compensate youth coordinators.

If this sounds like something you’re interested in, write us at info@detroitrepresent.org or call 313 279 1279

And don’t forget to check this blog regularly for updates on our progress!

Image

The mission of Detroit REPRESENT! is to resist erasure and misportrayal by actively engaging in the work of self-education and self-empowerment, to create a revolutionary media alternative that authentically portrays our communities, our lives, and our selves.