The weekend of October 12-14 was a big weekend for BAYS. Jason and I took a trip to LA in order to establish partnerships with various organizations that do incredible work in LGBT-youth empowerment and also create safer environments for these youth in their respective communities.
Friday was especially important, as we met with representatives of a few key organizations that have made huge impacts in the activist world. The first organization we met with was the ACLU of Southern California, which also serves as the hub for the organization. We sat down with Joey, the organization’s liaison for all things LGBT, including LGBT youth empowerment. Joey provided incredible insight into what work needs to be done in schools, particularly within the public school system where diversity coordinators and directors are not present due to funding restrictions. Jason and I gleaned a lot about what steps BAYS needs to take in order to effectively and efficiently implement the Middle School Safety Initiative (MSSI), especially taking into account the fact that it is uncommon for public middle schools to have any formal education on LGBT-issues. This work is unprecedented, but thanks to the resources and advice that Joey provided, BAYS is so much closer to realizing its goals.
With the conclusion of this meeting, Jason and I headed over to SoCal’s “gay Mecca,” West Hollywood, where we had another meeting scheduled. This meeting was with GLAAD, another organization that does incredible work regarding LGBT empowerment, but also is responsible for the majority of LGBT-related media and censorship. We met with Max, the Entertainment Media Strategist, who is responsible for a lot of extremely important components of the media including censorship of potentially inappropriate language and exposure of all things LGBT. This meeting was really important for BAYS because Max gave us great ideas for workshops that BAYS can have at the summit next Spring. Even more exciting, Max gave us advice as to how to go about contacting certain celebrities and other public figures who would be great additions to the speaker set at the summit. It is the combination of these components that will make the summit a real success, so Jason and I are truly grateful for Max’s help.
Saturday was also exciting because Models for Pride, one of the largest (if not THE largest) LGBT conferences in the nation took place at the University of Southern California campus, and BAYS was one of the many incredible organizations represented at this conference. Jason and I joined the plethora of organizations that had set up tables for passers by to stop and check out. The number of people that came up to our table was incredible. We received so many positive responses, and we even formed tentative partnerships with some organizations interesting in taking part in BAYS’ GSA Day of Action next February.
For me, the biggest takeaway from this entire trip was how important and necessary BAYS’ work is and will continue to be as the organization continues to grow. Everyone that Jason and I talked to said the same thing, that the voice of the youth must be heard. The work that must be done is daunting and we are treading waters that have never been explored before. This trip revealed to me that the work we do at BAYS needs to spread and benefit other parts of our nation. Once we have created a strong foothold in the Bay Area, BAYS will surely set its sights on expansion and be able to engender change in other areas of need. In the end, BAYS aims to firmly establish this youth voice, and with the continued support of our allies and generous donors, we will succeed (fiercely and fabulously :]).
Deputy Executive Director