Op-Ed: HBGC’s Youth Empowerment Conference 2017

Youth Empowerment Conference

By: Amanda Reveles*/Special to TRT—

When I was in my first year of college I had just moved to New England and had little knowledge of the different communities within the Boston area. I had first learned of the Hispanic Black Gay Coalition’s Youth Empowerment Conference (YEC) when I saw a poster for it at my university’s GSA center.

I had gone to HBGC’s fourth annual YEC, nervous and unsure of what to expect but was taken away by the content being offered, the feeling of security, and the overall excitement of the people who attended. I felt like I had found home.

This past indigenous people’s day weekend, I attended my fourth YEC and those feeling were still there.

What keeps me coming back each year is that finally there is a space where I can be myself unapologetically, without fear of judgment or condemnation. Most of the participants share similar experiences of being a young queer person of color trying to make sense of their intersecting identities and this feeling of unity resonates in every interaction.

This past conference was different from the others that I had attended in a great way. On Saturday, there was a theme of healing and community building that resonated in the content. I was able to attend a beginner’s yoga class in the morning and then a panel that discussed how we, as young people of color, can acknowledge and overcome the trauma we face in our lives. This panel was so powerful. It really opened my mind to how necessary it is to have a community like the one this conference provides.

To wrap up the day, I went to a workshop where we played “Family Feud” with the topic being sexual health. It was fun to be able to laugh and learn with other participants.

I left the conference that day with a new understanding of myself and where I fit into the world, which prepared me for the next day, when the bulk of the conference material was being offered.

On Sunday, I attended great workshops and was able to use this feeling of community that I felt from the day before to be more engaged in the content.

I had an open discussion about asexuality and its misconceptions, was able to have my voice heard on issues regarding LGBTQ inclusion within first and secondary education, and, for lunch, I was able to learn about the Point Foundation scholarship from actual recipients.

In the afternoon, I gained new insight on the radical connections people can make and how to go about those relationships in a safe and healthy way. I was also able to hear Rosa Clemente give a wonderful speech on what it means to be a person of color and an activist, as well as a brief history on queer activism and how that related to the Black Lives Matter Movement.

I left the conference that day feeling empowered, not be cliché. I believe it is important to have these spaces where people can be themselves and can connect with other people like them. Every year I attend this conference, I leave with some newfound knowledge about myself, about how to become an effective activist, about how to survive in a society that marginalizes myself and others like me. I look forward to what else HBGC has to offer for next year’s conference.

* Amanda Reveles is a senior at Boston University studying astronomy and physics. When she is not researching the origins of planets, Amanda enjoys studying film and being involved in the community. She currently volunteers for the Hispanic Black Gay Coalition and aspires to empower young queer people of color through their programs.       

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