Detroit Future Media Youth Program holds first gathering at Ruth Ellis Center

August 18, 2011

HIGHLAND PARK – A diverse group of over 50 Detroit youth, representing 12 community organizations attended the first gathering of the Detroit Future Media Youth Program on July 26 at the Ruth Ellis Center in Highland Park. The Ruth Ellis Center honors the life and work of the late Ruth Ellis who was one of the country’s oldest known "out" African American lesbians. Over the course of her 101 years, she was a pioneering activist for the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) community in the Detroit area and beyond.

The Ruth Ellis Center is one of only four agencies in the United States dedicated to homeless LGBTQ youth and young adults. Among their services are a drop-in center, street outreach program, transitional living programs, and emergency housing shelter.

“The great thing was seeing youth who seemingly have little in common, relating to each other based on the similarity of their struggles and hope for the future,” said DFM Youth Program Coordinator Alia Harvey-Quinn. “Twelve organizations brought their youth out to support the event. We had over fifty youth of all different races, nationalities, attractional orientations, economic backgrounds and ages.”

Youth enjoyed pizza and social interaction before engaging in several workshop around identity and tolerance. The gathering was addressed by local LGBTQ activists Dr. Kofi Adoma and Michelle Brown before sitting down to a public screening of two films produced by and featuring Ruth Ellis Center Youth leaders. 

That was followed by a panel discussion on the films. The first film was titled “Put Yourself in Our Shoes” and aimed to reach people who have bullied, teachers, administrators, and community members. The second film, “I, You, We Are Not Alone”, targeted LGBTQ youth who have survived bullying in hopes of breaking isolation. 

“The most important part of this gathering was the exploration of identity and self image,” Alia said. “The workshop focused on the ways individual self image impacts community self image. When a community is proud of their self image even when society views their identity negatively, that can be a revolutionary act that transforms society.  The workshop uplifted commonalities, celebrated differences, and set the tone for a safe space for youth to be themselves.

“The event also featured a premier screening of a film that Ruth Ellis Center's Out and Upfront program created around the bullying crisis and how it impairs the educational experience of homo-attractional youth. It was inspiring to see young people stand up to correct an injustice that plagues the community.”

DFM Youth Coordinators said that the Ruth Ellis Center gathering set a positive tone going forward to their next gathering which will take place at Vanguard on August 27.

“One of our goals is to grow a youth led movement,” Alia said. “We'd love to engage youth in critical dialog around issues that affect their community and support them to really fight for change. This is one step down a long road of intersecting movements and building relationships across boundaries to ultimately work together for change.

“We are looking forward to more justice based media creation, more movement building, and more youth working together to transform our city.”