“We See You”: 2023 Black LGBTQIA+ Youth Institute Recap

On December 1st, the Women’s Leadership Project, Black Skeptics L.A., REACH L.A., Project Q and other community partners held the third annual Black LGBTQIA+ Youth institute at Stoneview Nature Center in Culver City. The session was facilitated by WLP youth interns and alumni, Ashantee Polk (Class of 2020) and Brianna Parnell (Class of 2019). Forty youth and adults participated in group mental health and wellness activities, school and community climate assessments, music therapy, theater, prose writing and yoga workshops that focused on culturally responsive Black LGBTQIA+ community building and safe space creation. Communty partners Project Q and REACH L.A. presented their work. Under the direction of WLP project director Jessica Robinson, WLP King-Drew students Lawnie, Nazir, and Kaysea performed an introduction to the forthcoming youth theater performance #PRIDE. #PRIDE amplifies BIPOC queer and feminist identities.

 Students also had an opportunity to view a Black LGBTQIA+ history lesson video by Cynthia Ruffin of the Amaad Institute and discuss George M. Johnson’s groundbreaking “queer memoir-manifesto” All Boys Aren’t Blue. Middle and high school students from King-Drew, Mann UCLA and Hamilton HS attended and expressed that they felt “seen” and “affirmed”. One Hamilton student commented, “I wouldn’t improve or change anything about the (institute) sessions. I think they were amazing and they (WLP) need to continue this further.” The institute capped off a busy three weeks for WLP/BSLA LGBTQIA+ focused programming.

On November 26th, WLP held a book club discussion, facilitated by WLP program manager Tomorrie Cook, of Kacen Callender’s riveting LGBTQ+ YA middle school novel King and the Dragonflies. The discussion centered on identity, family and friend relationships, coming out, navigating homophobia and racism, as well as grief, trauma, and the emotional bonds between siblings.