When Detroit REPRESENT! first formed, in 2011, our collective had no funding. We weren’t a formal organization, or a project of a formal organization, although the youth who worked to get us off the ground had long-standing relationships with numerous social service agencies, especially youth programs we attended in the past. We started taking pictures with film cameras we found for free or cheap, and talking about the role of the media in our oppression, as people of color, and LGBTQ youth. We had a lot of fun, but didn’t really have the resources to launch large-scale projects.
After our first year, we took some time getting to know each other, while building a structure. Many of our members were struggling just to survive, so there were days when we planned meetings, but ended up supporting one of our friends through a crisis, instead. We think that time was valuable, though, and important to getting us where we are today. We learned a lot about ourselves, and our community, while practicing all kinds of media-making projects.
In 2014, our collective became a sponsored project of the Allied Media Projects, after we received $3,300 in grants from the Trans Justice Funding Project and The Awesome Foundation. We put this money towards the cost of food (each of our meetings includes dinner) and supplies for making media. All other financial support comes from individual contributions, art and media sales, and in-kind donations.
These days, we know each other really well, and have fun together. We regularly practice making media, and think and talk constantly about oppression and its solutions, in our lives. We meet about twice per week, with a goal of doubling that, this summer. We work constantly to build connections with community groups across the city, and become better organized. After four years of intentional outreach, relationship-building, fundraising, and learning, we are excited to launch some of our first large-scale media campaigns in 2015.