John Boylan’s Next Conversation: “Youth Culture, Youth Organizing”

Event Date: Tuesday, November 17, from 7:00 to 9:00 pm. Admission is free. Tell your friends.

Location: Vermillion, an art gallery, bar, and neighborhood gathering place at 1508 11th Ave, Seattle

To link to this announcement, do so at https://boylanconversation.wordpress.com/

The Summary

This time we’re talking about what happening in youth culture and youth organizing. Read on for details.

The Guests (see bios below)

Lisa Chen, executive director, FEEST

Nora Germani, executive producer at Black Tie Productions, student

Timothy Lennon, executive director, the Vera Project

Christina Nguyen, poet, youth organizer, Youth Speaks

And I’m seeking a fifth from Sawhorse Revolution

The Story

When I was a kid there were not a lot of options for youth programs. There was scouting, sports, church groups, and high school clubs. But most of these were pretty much top down. How good they were often depended on how cool, imaginative, or open the adult leader was.

There were exceptions: when I was in high school, my father, an actor and a steelworker, got together with some college professor friends to stage theater readings for their kids. I can recall sitting around an 18th century brick cellar in the home of a friend, as we all read parts from “Cyrano de Bergerac” and “The Madwoman of Chaillot.” I can still recall thinking that the girl who read the part of the madwoman, a year or two older than me, was superb.

But even this was top down, and only lasted for maybe a year or less.

I started thinking about this conversation with the realization that there are increasing numbers of youth cultural programs that are run—and sometimes instituted—by youth. And even those that are firmly controlled by adults are looking for ways to empower youth, not just give them culture.

Youth Speaks, while operating under the auspices of Arts Corps, is a youth-led poetry project. And one of the coolest things about it is that each year there is new group of youth leaders who go through training in leadership, management, event production, and community organizing.

Black Tie Productions, cofounded by our guest Nora Germani, is a theater company run, and almost completely supported by, high school students. They work independently of the schools they attend, and have produced huge, full-orchestra musical productions about such topics as growing up transgendered and teenage alienation and suicide.

With Sawhorse Revolution’s Impossible City project, students work with architects and residents of a homeless camp to design and build moveable tiny houses. With FEEST, students collectively cook their own meals, all the while learning about nutrition, food justice, food politics, and youth-led food solutions.

And then there’s the venerable Vera Project, where youth engage in—and learn about—music production and performance, as well as community organizing.

There’s amazing energy out there, and so much more is happening. Come and talk about it. (And note that while Vermillion is a bar, those under 21 can still be in the space, as long as they don’t go up to the bar itself.)

News Flash: As some of you know, I’ve been working on a project called 9e2, a huge art, science, and technology event that will happen in October 2016, as well as the months leading up to that date. 9e2 is a celebration of the interplay between art, science, and technology in the 21st century. And it is also a commemoration of the half-century anniversary of a pivotal art and technology event that happened in 1966, “9 Evenings: Theatre & Engineering.”

You can read more about 9e2 and the history of 9 Evenings at the 9e2 website.

And you can support 9e2 and help us put together seed money through our Indiegogo crowd funding campaign. Become a 9e2 supporter!

The Guests in Detail

Lisa Chen is the Executive Director of FEEST, a nationally recognized model for youth engagement on issues of food access, food justice, and systems change. By way of California, Lisa has planted roots in the Pacific Northwest as a volunteer youth mentor at the Service Board and a union organizer focused on empowering working class communities of color. Her political identity stems directly from growing up as the only child of an immigrant single mother where she saw first hand how limited English workers were treated unfairly.

In her career, Lisa has led student campaigns against fee increases at the University of California, organized undocumented youth in the fight for comprehensive immigration reform, and worked alongside radical housekeepers to demand better working conditions. She has a special place in her heart for youth work, and believes deeply that transformative breakthroughs in young people will shift our communities to act from a place of love instead of anger.

Nora Germani is seventeen years old and is a senior at Ingraham High School. She is the Executive Producer and Artistic Director of Black Tie Productions, an entirely student-run theatre company. She also helped to found Black Tie and has worked with the company over the past three years, writing, directing, and designing shows. Nora has written several short plays and co-written three full-length musicals, she is currently working on a fourth to be produced by Black Tie in the spring.

A native of Providence, R.I., Tim Lennon moved to Seattle in September 2001 and has worked in arts and culture here ever since. He currently serves as executive director of the Vera Project, an organization that fuels personal and community transformation through collaborative, youth‐driven engagement in music and art. Prior to joining Vera, Tim worked at Seattle’s Office of Arts & Culture to create opportunities for musicians and artists and to connect them and their amazing work to Seattle audiences in a variety of ways. His past work includes program manager for The Next 50, a six‐month series marking the 50th anniversary of the 1962 World’s Fair, and programming coordinator for One Reel, producer of Bumbershoot, the Family 4th of July and other local festivals. Tim has also coordinated events for the Elliott Bay Book Co., the University of Washington and local non‐profits.  Tim serves on the Seattle Music Commission, is an alumnus and curriculum committee member of Leadership Tomorrow, and a member of the Civic Innovators Club and the Seattle People of Color Salon.

Christina Nguyen works with Arts Corps as an AmeriCorps Artist-in-Service member in the Teen Leadership Program and as Youth Speaks Seattle Coordinator. She is an aspiring poet and artist with passions and dreams to accomplish! Grown up and raised around fierce activists and advocates from the Seattle community since the age of fifteen, Christina is empowered to search and find her own voice with the resilient tools and new ideas she learns every day from her family in Youth Speaks Seattle. She hopes to channel her energy to others to help find and use their own power in the voices they were born with, through the magic of assisting poetry classes, carrying debatable yet enlightening conversation, and truly believing in others. She organizes with programs such as YouthCan through the Wing Luke Museum and as a mentor with Youth Speaks Seattle. On her spare time, you can usually find Christina sipping on peppermint tea whilst simultaneously sketching with a sharpie in hand.

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