On February 6th at 7:00 PM, the The Third Gallery hosted a public screening of videos in the shortened two day Through Our Eyes Program, and a panel discussion with the participants.
Through Our Eyes is a film production and distribution program for teens who identify with the LGBTQ, foster care, immigrant, and people of color communities. The program is spearheaded by the nonprofit Gazillion Strong and its partner organization Line Break, and introduces participants to storytelling, filming, editing, and sharing their videos through websites and a variety of social media platforms. Through these outlets, young teens are able to tell their story and share issues that they care about to others who may identify with them.
Participants showcased a video about their thoughts, interests, and experiences to a packed room of parents, friends, community members, and new supporters. The panel discussion focused on the the young participants and creation of their video, which focused on identity. Their understanding and acceptance of identity took center stage in the conversation.
“They came up with the questions. They came up with the ideas for the project, “ said Eleonore Wesserle, a trainer and facilitator of Line Break Media. Participants in the program were about to tell their story through their eyes unfiltered by assumptions, and perceptions.
“They think they can be the boss of my identity. They think that they can tell me who I am to make me feel valid. No one can do that because it’s through our eyes,” said Danny, a participant in the program. Identity was not so much about checking off boxes or labels, but how the participants wanted to be identified.
“Identity is important, and we especially want to emphasize intersectionality,” said Kevin Vollmer, Executive Director of Gazillion Strong and and also the founder of Land of Gazillion Adoptees, LLC (LGA), a multimedia company based out of Minneapolis, MN.
From gender, economic status, race, and interests, identity is not black and white. The young participants understood well the barriers they faced when it came to preconceived notions.
Asked why she wanted to tell her story, Lakia Robinson, a 16 year old student from Avalon School in Saint Paul said she struggled with racism. She wanted to share her story because people always had assumptions about her based on the color of her skin.
“I am not a trouble maker. I am not going to be in jail. I am typical, but with unique ways. I am talented at singing. I like photography. Who I am is not one thing, and I want you to remember that,” said Robinson.
To learn more about Gazillion Strong and Line Break Media, please check out the links below: