Friday, March 8, 2013

My ONLY Response On NYHRA Teen Pregnancy PSAs

Many folks have asked me to writes something or respond to the NY Human Resources Association's latest ad campaign about teenage pregnancy.

Here's my thing: I'm personally and professionally not a fan of these posters, language, images, in the way they are presented and the messages they are sending to youth, especially young parents of Color.

What my concerns are and why I'm not going to comment much on this topic is the following:
  1. I'm not, nor have I ever been, a young parent of Color. 
  2. I'm clear my points of view are not ones that come from a space of being a young parent or a youth at all anymore. 
  3. I do not know if youth were engaged in creating these images and messaging. 
  4. I'm committed to doing the actual work directly with youth, helping youth strategize and build to create messages that represent them. 
  5. I stand in solidarity with youth and not on top or over them.
I'm troubled that the NYHRA has created and implemented this program in this way when similar campaigns such as HIV Stops With Me have created amazing discussions around living positive with HIV. See for example the ads featuring AIDS educator and activists Kim and Jahlove (sidenote: I work with both Kim and Jahlove and I adore them both).

I wonder: what role youth had, if any, in this process. Perhaps they were included. What if youth were a part of creating these images and campagin? What say folks then? How may these responses be shaming those youth who participated? Is that our purpose at the end of the day?

See I'm more concerned with how youth are going to be treated in this back and forth. I'm concerned how folks may be isolating and targeting youth who participated and that is not useful. What are ways folks who are "organizing" around this campaign are already working with youth? Don't get it twisted there are TONS of folks who will come out of the "woodworks" and write about this who are 1. not youth, 2. not young parents, 3. not parents, 4. speak for/over youth who are parents.

And that's my main concern. I'm more interested in organizations led and run by youth responding to these. I'm interested in engaging youth first and foremost to respond to this because this is about them and targeting them. Being a mentor for almost 2 decades to the same young woman, I've learned a lot from her mentoring me as well. I've learned that we must support youth in many of their endeavors.  That we, adults, must be mindful of the space we take up in youth spaces. We must not speak over or for youth. We must instead make opportunities and build connections and relationships to actually have youth be at the center and at the table making decisions.

I know I'm here for helping youth. I see youth as important members of our society. They know what they want and they know what works for them. Are we, as adults, educators, providers, ready to listen to youth and let them lead? Or are we afraid of giving up that form of power too?

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