Youth activism: Washburn High School theater teaches advocacy

Eshay Brantley didn’t know what to expect walking into the Theatre I class at Washburn High School in Minneapolis. But, having felt as though she hadn’t found her niche in school yet, she went in with an open mind.Two years later, Brantley’s a senior, and identifies as a spoken word artist and has competed in the spoken word competition Brave New Voices through Tru Art Speaks, performed at locations including Macalester College, and received an award for her role as a youth educator at the Twin Cities Social Justice Education Fair.“We save lives here every single day, just by having students get on stage and actually speak from their heart,” Brantley said.Theatre I is just one of five classes now being taught at Washburn through their Black Box Acting Program. The series, which started in 2008, provides three levels of theater classes, as well as a spoken word class and one aimed at students with developmental disabilities. The program is meant to help students further explore social justice issues, and teach them skills to help them better advocate their needs and beliefs.Brantley said she came from a family that didn’t talk about social justice issues, so the theater classes provided her with an outlet to explore social issues like marginalized communities and systematic oppression. The classes also helped her figure out her role in those issues and within her community, she said.“[It] made me think less about myself and more about the people around me and what I see is affecting the people around me,” Brantley said.Brantley’s experience with the program is not an anomaly. Continue Reading

Hamline’s Take Back the Campus focuses on sexual violence and privilege

There’s a time to speak out and a time to shut up. That was the message being spread at Hamline University’s Take Back the Campus last week.The university’s Women’s Resource Center hosted the event on Oct. 21 with the goal of including a diverse group of speakers and performers. Informational tables and a line up of a wide range of speakers were aimed to rally against all forms of gender violence and opening a dialogue about how to better prevent sexual assault.“Creating a culture of respect that celebrates and requires affirmative consent and positive sexuality is hard work,” said Cards Against Harassment founder Lindsey. “It means shutting up that voice once in a while and letting other people talk about their experiences.”Lindsey, who keeps her last name private to protect her professional career, designed and printed business cards that she would give to cat-calling men in downtown Minneapolis. Continue Reading

Metro Transit promises more, better shelters; Community members remain skeptical

A new goal to construct and renovate bus shelters in low-income neighborhoods has been met with skepticism rather than excitement from some community members.Metro Transit announced through Metro Council last week that they are the recipients of a $3.2 million Ladders of Opportunity grant — part of which will be used to construct and renovate bus shelters in Minneapolis and St. Paul by the end of 2015. Officials said with more and better shelters, they hope to increase ridership, and improve safety and comfort.“The goal is to install up to 150 new shelters, add amenities such as heat and light at up to 75 existing locations and to replace 75 to 100 shelters in Minneapolis that were privately owned and maintained until earlier this year,” said Metro Transit Public Relations Specialist Drew Kerr.Kerr said that the grant will be combined with a local match of $815,000 from Metro Transit, contributions from state legislature, and money left over from the Green Line Project. Altogether, he said, they should have $5.8 million to fund shelter improvements.According to the Metro Council website, that money will be focused on Racially Concentrated Areas of Poverty (RCAPs), a term that refers to areas where more than half the residents are people of color, and more than 40 percent of the residents have family incomes less than 185 percent of the federal poverty threshold.Kerr said Metro Transit has identified north Minneapolis and east St. Paul as areas to focus on. Continue Reading

Leading by example: New youth directors to lead Trans Youth Support Network

Local trans youth can now officially turn to their peers for help in navigating a system they say doesn’t accommodate their needs.On July 1, Trans Youth Support Network transitioned into a completely youth-led organization. Jahleel Princeton Arcani, TayvonCaples, La’Niya Dixon and Jakob Rumble took over the organization, replacing TYSN’s previous adult leaders Katie Burgess and Roxanne Anderson. Officials say the transition will allow TYSN to better support trans youth in the Twin Cities.“We don’t just want to be serving youth,”Jakob Rumble said. “We want to be leading by example.”Rumble took over as financial director, and said it’s important for young trans people to support other young trans people when it comes to navigating societal and governmental systems.Trans youth face higher rates of poverty, higher drop-out rates, and more homelessness, he said, and they’re often forced into it.Some of TYSN’s support services include learning how to acquire jobs properly, and offering advice on how to pass as cis-gender in order to apply for a name change.Jahleel Princeton Arcani took over as the development and sustainability director, and said the group is excited about the change. The organization has always been youth-led since their board members must be under 30, he said, but this transition is the final push to a fully youth-led nonprofit.“It’s been a dream of the people who started TYSN for it to be youth led,”Arcani said, noting the two top leaders weren’t youth. Continue Reading