The Zine Project at Youth Advocacy Day

by Zine Instructor Shaun

“Public Policy is also about feeling,” Rueben Carlyle (D) on Youth Advocacy Day, February 10th, 2012

     

Zine Interns on Youth Advocacy

Ziners Justin, Demetrius & Javonna at Youth Advocacy Day

A few Fridays ago, Zine interns Justin, Javonna, and Demetrius and I got in my car and drove the 65 miles from Seattle to Olympia. We were going to join the Mockingbird Society and over 200 other homeless, street involved and/or foster care youth gathering at the capitol for this year’s Youth Advocacy Day.

     Two hours later, we parked and made our way through the soggy grass to a leaky pavilion tent sheltering the day’s participants. We all wore scarves the color of orange caution signs—symbolizing youth visibility and the urgency of the cause.

     That day the state’s House of Representatives would be voting on HB 2592—a bill furthering Washington state’s Extended Foster Care program. The program, funded by state and federal dollars, allows foster care youth to remain in care up until they are 21, so long as they are still working on their high school education. As an improvement, HB 2592 allots that foster care youth working on post secondary educations can also choose to remain in the foster care system until they are 21. This legislation hopes to improve on devastating statistics showing that only 2% of youth in foster care ever achieve a college education.

     Governor Gregoire’s budget proposals were also of grave concern to those gathered as it proposes the following cuts:

  • Funding eliminated to Street Youth Programs that provide outreach services to homeless youth. These services include referrals to housing programs.
  • Funding eliminated to Family Reconciliation Services that help resolve conflict between 13-17 year old runaways and their families.
  • 34% cut to Responsible Living Skills program, which, state-wide, provides 32 beds for minors seeking residential care.  These 16-18 year olds would otherwise be homeless.

    

Zine Intern Justin sporting his rally attire

After a pump up rally detailing all of this, youth were sent to their regional representatives. Zine joined the Seattle troop and went to Representatives Eric Pettigrew of South Seattle and Jaime Pederson of the U-district. Both Reps were voting on the floor and so their aides took notes on our questions and concerns.

     “If UDYC didn’t exist,” said Zine Intern Justin to Pederson’s aid. “I don’t know what relationships on the Ave would be like. It would be tumultuous….They (UDYC staff) are doing a fucking excellent job. For people doing drugs, they’re people to talk to and tell us there’s another way. All of them (Street Youth Programs) keep us alive in some sort of way.”

     Javonna, one of our interns from South Seattle, told Pettigrew’s aid about the lack of services in that part of town. “A lot of people are really stuck. To get to work, I have to take an hour and a half bus to the U-district”, she said.

     After our meetings, it was time to march. In a loop around the capitol, Ziners joined their other youth advocates in chanting “let it be known, we need a home”.

     The march led us into the House Chamber, in which Representatives were making closing remarks for HB 2592.

     Representative Roberts, one of the bill’s supporters, reminded her colleagues that the goal was to create a “safe and structured living environment” for foster care youth 21 and under to pursue college.

     HB 2592 passed by a landslide—88 to 9.

     Youth Advocacy Day    We enjoyed a celebratory lunch and supporting Representatives stopped by to shake hands and encourage.  HB 2592 still needs to make it through the Senate; and the Govenor’s budget still looms. But this year, as with every year, Youth Advocacy Day kindled civic interest in a host of young minds.

     On the ride back, Zine Interns talked about their experience—a first for all three of them. They expressed amazement and a desire to get more involved in public process.

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The War Fought Inside My Head

By Amanda

Ziner collage; addiction

Addiction collage by Amanda

Everyday I wake up with the thought of using. I contemplate whether I should get high or go to work at Zine. It’s a never ending battle that I keep in my head.

I typically get up and go to work but ALWAYS no matter which way I walk from the bus I end up walking past where the U-District needle exchange is (in Seattle). I catch myself checking to see if it’s the day its open or not. Throughout the day I end up asking myself is it really worth it? Then I feel Haylie kick inside me. And I remember why I got sober. And my motivation to stay sober. Then those thoughts of using trickle away.

My sobriety is something I have to work at everyday. Even after these hard 6 months. I have to remind myself everyday that I am blessed to be alive, and to be granted this second chance ( well I guess 4th chance) at life. I have many opportunities open to myself, but only I can grant them. My life would not be the way it is today if I was not sober. To be honest I probably wouldn’t be alive right now to be able to write this. After 3 overdoses and a heart attack in a short 4 month span, to be granted another chance at life is truly a blessing. I wouldn’t be able to do it without my family, Travis, his family and my amazing daughter growing inside of me. I may still have to fight the war inside my head everyday- but I ALWAYS win, not my addiction. Thanks to my sobriety!

29week ultrasound

Haylie Jayde

Dumping Everything Out at Zine

By Demetrius

I heard there has never been a zine on construction. With my experiences with construction I thought I could write one. Since it had been a while since I’ve done any writing, Shaun and I sat down this morning and wrote this poem by Shaun asking me questions and me giving the answers. So here it goes— I hope you feel it.

 

 

Dump Trucks

My uncle drove trucks—dump trucks.
I went out on some jobs with him.
We’d start by getting up around 5, 5.30,
Getting dressed in suspenders and orange shirts
With reflective strips going across.
When we’d walk out, it’d be dark
I’d be feelin’ good. I like morning breaths
for some reason. When I inhale that crisp air
I just feel like moving.

We’d hop in the car and drive for fifteen minutes
To the trucks.
The trucks be looking like toy cars—
like little dump trucks you used to play with as a kid
except they’re thousands of pounds. When I see ‘em,
I be wanting to drive.

We start our truck—a red one. We call it Optimus.
When that engine starts it sounds louder than a baseball game
After a home run—they got a reason to holler.
We let it warm up.

My uncle—I feel like trucks fit him.
When he’s rolling, he changes the shifts,
Drinking his coffee and talking on the phone all at once.
He seems like he is where he needs to be.
He respected his truck—never going over the speed limit,
Running lights or nothing like that.

As we hopped on the freeway on the way to a job,
The truck would feel like we were running out of gas or something
The way it pushed me back and forth in my seat.
After about a hundred feet and passed the third shift, it would even out by being a smooth ride.

We’d arrive at our job and every time the rocks hit the inside,
I would hear it like a water tower getting knocked over.
The back would dip, sometimes push forward.

When I’d go out on the jobs and see my uncle
It’d make me want to be a better person by doing
What he does,
Working the rest of my life.
In the working world, I learned
We all work together
When we get the job done,
We all go home on a higher level
Just because we know
We all worked as one
And did what we was supposed to do.

***

Reflection: I have never done anything like that before. The bad part is I had to write thousands of words, the good part is I mostly knew the points I was talking about. It was great that someone was there for me so when I got stuck he would help me get back on track.

Zine reads at Town Hall Event with Mayor McGinn

The Zine Project with Mayor McGinn

The Zine Project with Mayor McGinn at Town Hall

This passed Monday, Zine Instructor Shaun and two Zine Project graduates read Zine writing to city officials, including Seattle mayor, Mike McGinn.

The Zine reading at University Heights served as the opening entertainment for McGinn’s monthly Mayor’s Town Hall event, drawing members of the community to ask their mayor important questions.

Following the theme of public process, Ziners read selections from their

Zine Project reading at Mayor's Town Hall

Ziners read from Apocalypse Yesterday

group zine Apocalypse Yesterday–a zine filled with youth’s imaginative responses to an apocalypse, which throughout the zine becomes a metaphor for the private catastrophies occuring in the lives of many homeless young people. In Apocalypse Yesterday, youth re-envision their approach to relationship, citizenship, leadership and group identity in the face of marginalization.

The youth were applauded by the mayor after their lively reading and thanked for their words. Mayor McGinn noted the theme of togetherness in the writing. 

The zine youth sat through their first Town Hall event and left having their voices heard.

Zine Lesson of the Week: The Details

    by Zine Instructor Shaun

Youth artwork by Jack, Dirty Ratty Converse

Dirty Ratty Converse, by Jack

The key to good writing is in the details—things, objects, nouns. Readers are starved for physical descriptions, in part I think because our world is filled with them; but also, because we find meaning in objects when our relationships become unstable or ambiguous.

     This is no less true for homeless youth who we employ in Zine. For varying reasons, these youth can’t go home—poverty, abuse, conflict. And in their instability, many find power in things they can hold in their hands and not let go of.

     I’m always reminded about this when it comes time to talk about details. I dedicate about a week of instruction time just to detailed writing. We often read an excerpt from Don Delillo’s Underworld, where the narrator is holding a baseball—that age old staple of Americana. He describes it:

“It (the baseball) was old, bunged up, it was bashed and tobacco-juiced and stained by natural processes and by the lives behind it, weather spattered and charactered as a seafront house” (pg. 131).

     Whether the youth listening are baseball fans or not, they often connect with this appreciation of things that are tattered, weathered and worn. These markings become characteristic of survival—a prized quality in youth homelessness.

     After reading the Delillo piece, I usually ask youth authors to write about an object they turn to for security. I ask them to describe the object in detail.

     One author, who goes by Jack, responded by writing the following piece, which became the title piece for her zine, Dirty, Ratty Converse:

     “My dirty, ratty, ripped-up converse. I will never throw them away. They have carried me through the good times, as well as the bad. They have been with me through love and pain. They have seen the best and worst sides of me and are the only things that have never left me through any of it. They are faded and torn. The rubber is cracked and peels away with ease. And still they carry me with the unconditional love that only they can give me and I can return only to them.” (pg. 3)

     Details do that. They give readers a chance to walk in the writers’ shoes. 

     Being both writers and listeners in Zine, we get the unique chance to walk alongside each other, empathizing and encouraging. Ironically, in writing about the details that reveal their instability, our writers get to start building.

     They build a zine—an original publication of artwork and writing.

     By completing a zine, interns build their confidence.

     “I’m proud of myself for sticking around to finish. I actually finished the requirements for my Zine early and got to make it bigger. I’m proud of myself for that”, says Jack.

     Zines become details in themselves— things that their authors can hold and claim ownership and efficacy over.

     And like good details, zines are also symbolic—symbolic of youth’s ability to say something and create something that lasts.

Youth writing, Jack's Zine Dirty Ratty Converse, back cover

"Give me a reason, one little reason. Just one tiny reason is all I need, I swear."

Poet William Blake said, “To see the world in a grain of sand/ and a heaven in a wild flower” is one of the abilities of innocence. To find universal truth in detail, to find hope of career success from completing a writing project—both take some imagination and, yes, faith.

     But for Jack, the details are accruing. She has a job—found it within a week after graduating Zine. She’s also enrolled in community college.

     “I plan to stay in school. The quarter’s three months, Zine was two months. I think if I could stick it out for that long, I could stick it out in school for a while….” Jack says.

     Behind the modesty, is fierce intelligence and talent.

     Check out Jack’s Dirty Ratty Converse for a walk in her shoes.

     And remember to enjoy the details.