Also, please read below this essay by Joe Mannetti on how C.I.T.Y.x1′s Carlos Sosa is reaching out to LGBTQ youth in the Los Angeles area.
MAKING IT BETTER: GRASS-ROOTS OUTREACH CONNECTING WITH LGBTQ YOUTH!
Carlos Sosa keepin’ it real with C.I.T.Yx1
By Joe Mannetti
Homophobia, the fear of putting youth and LGBTQ in the same sentence, teenage peer pressure, ineffective communication between adults and young people, plus the push to conform – all combine to create a mountain of issues that seem impossible to even attempt to climb in efforts to help LGBTQ youth. There are no easy answers, and there is no formula for consistent guaranteed success. We are dealing with individuals and layers of complex issues here.
But, despite all the obstacles, there are people out there who are achieving effective outreach with LGBTQ youth. For them, one of the secret ingredients appears to be maintaining a grass-roots approach. That means being genuine, keeping it real and not fearing the need to meet young people on their own terms and where they are at in safe environments that welcome diversity.
Boundaries are necessary and important. But a spirit that allows an open freedom of expression within those safe boundaries is also necessary. Safety and support are merely the foundation in order to allow a wide range of LGBTQ youth from more diverse backgrounds to feel welcome. Facilitators and volunteers who know how to genuinely connect and encourage LGBTQ youth to flourish are vital. Making the youth present feel welcome by meeting them in their own neighborhoods and at regular local events is also a great means of establishing consistency and a safe grass-roots level of support.
In order to support diversity, you need to maintain independence. Independence allows the value of individuality to thrive. The best groups recognize this and do everything that they can to preserve it.
Among the leaders who proudly march to their own drummer on a fiercely grass-roots level is Carlos Sosa. Carlos has been a Community Activist and Organizer since 2002. He currently oversees the C.I.T.Y. x1 Youth Group, which he also founded. This year, he was the recipient of two prestigious awards. In June, he was awarded the City of West Hollywood’s “Rainbow Award.” The Stonewall Young Democrat’s “Hero Award” was bestowed upon him in last year. Both awards were in recognition of his work with C.I.T.Y. x1.
Carlos says that:
“Community Intervention Through Youth (C.I.T.Y.) x1 was born out of a need to provide local LGBTQ youth with a different product and service than what currently existed in the nonprofit sector. While there are many excellent programs out there that genuinely care about the youth, we felt that we wanted to deliver a product ‘by youth, for youth.’ We’ve remained grassroots since forming in 2005 and have had a successful track-record and are about to produce our 18th community event for youth.”
Carlos emphasizes how keeping it “real” and independent has been key to the success and growth of C.I.T.Y. x1 by connecting positively with the urban and diverse LGBTQ youth it seeks to support. He says:
“We guarantee that you will see the entire rainbow reflected at any one of our events & activities. No matter who you are or how you identify within the ever-growing spectrum that is the LGBTQ community, you will see yourself reflected at our productions. Since our formation in 2005, we have gained a loyal-following and earned people’s trust.
There are no incentives, monetary compensation, or any other types of ‘perks’ for anyone at C.I.T.Y. x1 (which is an all-volunteer organization). We simply want to create social activities where youth feel safe and accepted.”
The lessons that Carlos has learned from his years of working and living in the community include keeping it real, and keeping it grass-roots and independent in order to continue to serve the LGBTQ youth that he connects with so effectively. When asked why he guards his group’s grass-roots independence so determinedly, he states:
“Freedom and flexibility. Those are two factors that government funded nonprofits are not always afforded. Grassroots organizations enjoy the freedom of making decisions ‘on the spot’ and not having to wait long periods of time for it to go through a long ‘pipeline’. There is still structure within grassroots, but the decision process is usually quicker.”
Youth are very smart these days… Keeping it ‘real’ will go much further than just trying to do a ‘bait & switch’ with youth, just for the sake of meeting your client quota for the month.”
So, bottom line, how can we effectively reach out and help to make a difference for the young people in our LGBTQ communities? Carlos offers these parting words:
“Get involved one way or another. Not everyone can donate money. But you can still volunteer your time and resources in a variety of ways. Seek out local youth organizations or a group collaborative that give you access to a variety of youth groups all at one time. If it doesn’t work out with one group, don’t give up…keep looking for the one that makes you feel comfortable, best suits your abilities to contribute, and is a perfect ‘fit.’ Whether you are a Doctor who wants to share knowledge, a Personal Trainer who wants to give training seminars to youth, a savvy computer person who wants to volunteer from home, or if you just simply want to move chairs & tables at an event, there is something out there for you to do and many young lives that can benefit from it.”
There are opportunities for all of us to MAKE IT BETTER NOW for LGBTQ youth. Aside from C.I.T.Y.x1, there are organizations that support LGBTQ youth all over the map. Please, do not hesitate to contact one in your area and start making a positive difference in a young person’s life today. Below is a list of places that you can reach out to, and thanks for caring.
There are fine organizations all over the map that offer support services for LGBTQ youth. Please, do not hesitate to get involved with them. They always welcome volunteers and fundraising. They are here to help, and they welcome your participation and involvement. Here are links to a few of the best of them in various locations:
Southern California (Los Angeles area):