A single day is never just one thing. In a day, you can move through so many different emotions, have different experiences, meet new people, see old friends, laugh and even sometimes, cry. I was struck by that range of experience on Saturday at VOX. Teen facilitators and adult supporters gathered early in the morning with cinnamon buns and strong coffee to gear up to welcome and orient teens to VOX. Our doors flung open to 41 teens, many new to this unique place and many returning VOXers. We laughed hard, we ate plenty of snacks, including ice cream cake to celebrate Mack and Maya’s birthdays and even danced a little. Teens brainstormed stories that will jump off any page and as an adult ally, I was just happy to be a fly on the wall.
I didn’t spend much time on my phone or at my desk, but when I looked down, the notifications coming across social media were breathtaking and disturbing. In Charlottesville, Virginia, people were experiencing violence and losing their lives to the hatred of white supremacists. In 2017, in our country, racist-fueled vitriol reared its ugly head, emboldened and unmasked. Meanwhile, at VOX, teens created ground rules for how they want to be in community together this year, including things like “debate, don’t argue, freedom of speech, and don’t yuck my yum.” Teens talked about covering intersectional activism, the differences between racism and prejudice, bullying, politics and so much more. Teens learned about solid versus sketchy sources, the ethics of journalism and how to make the most of VOX’s uncensored, multi-media platform. Teens discussed in depth what it means to be both a reporter, truth-seeker and social justice advocate.
As I processed the day and learned more about the events that unfolded in Charlottesville, I was filled with gratitude for VOX. This is a place where teens can come and talk about their lives and their experiences with systemic, complex issues. This is also a place where teens can come, put down their backpacks and talk about the latest and greatest album, movie or video game while grabbing a snack. This is a place where teens share those stories, passions and perspectives with a community of readers so that our world can be expanded. Read some of their stories on race at VOXATL.com.
VOX is vital and more necessary than ever. As I look up from my notifications and news alerts, I see a place where hate will never have the last word, where teens are loved for exactly who they are and where community is built, not broken down. I am also grateful for the community of board members, volunteers, adult staff, partners and supporters who sustain this place with gifts of time, energy and treasure.
At VOX, there is always room for more – more people, more voices, more love, more ice cream cake. And I want to invite you to be a part of our community. Some ways you can join us:
- Read and share the teen-created content on VOXATL.com. Words matter, and these stories must be heard.
- Encourage the teens in your life to send their writing to firstname.lastname@example.org. We want to give them a platform to amplify their voice.
- Support VOX teens with an item from our wish list or a donation online.
- Volunteer with us – email email@example.com for more information (And know that you don’t have to be a journalist to be volunteer! We have lots of roles for volunteers).
I can think of no greater priority than this big-hearted, open-minded, love-filled organization. We are living in a world that demands us to support bold and courageous acts of love and self-expression. That’s VOX – last Saturday and every day.