by Anthony Greer -
SGN Contributing Writer
In July of 2011, the City of Seattle Neighborhood Matching Fund Program approved a roughly 80-page grant proposal which gave Three Wings, a separate committee of the Queer Youth Space (QYS), $100,000 to open the kind of safe space that many Queer youth had been advocating for.
Half a year later, the space still does not exist.
'The $100,000 is for the community match,' one of QYS's founding members, Kyle Rapiñan, said. 'We have more than $100,000 worth of volunteer time, but the amount of cash on hand is lower than that. We need to have a safe cash fruition to do what we want to do.'
Rapiñan explained that the funds are contingent on a physical space with a secured lease.
Eden Lord, a member on the Three Wings Board of Directors, said, 'What we need primarily is a space on Capitol Hill that is close to bus lines, stores, and where people hang out.'
QYS believes the space needs to be in an area which is 'alive.' They also want to find a space that is accessible for the differently-abled, and somewhere they can have shows in the evenings without noise complaints.
So far, according to QYS officials, they've had difficulty finding the perfect space, as well as a landlord who, if need be, would negotiate with them on their lease. In order for them to open their cultural arts center, they will be dependent on additional help from the community.
'We need a down payment of about $10,000 for the first couple months of rent,' estimated Kyle Croft, another member of both QYS and Three Wings. He and several others are currently searching for more donors and other grants to apply for, but he admits that 'it's hard to ask for money if we don't have a space yet. I think we're going to be launching a fundraising drive pretty soon.'
Croft later mentioned that QYS is working with Vera Project to host an all-ages Queer dance party at Chop Suey on April 1, and that other fundraisers are in the early planning stages.
Rapiñan, Lord, and Croft all emphasized that they want their events to be accessible to all of their constituents. Thus, they've had a more difficult time finding spaces to hold events in than other Queer-related organizations - hosting a fundraiser in one of Capitol Hill's popular bars can be as simple as setting a date and time and creating a Facebook invite list. In fact, one of the reasons why QYS took form in the first place was because so many fundraisers involved pricey dinners that most youth can't afford, and events are often held in spaces that are ageist, even if they could.
'There have been a lot of fluctuating energy levels in QYS and Three Wings, but for now, the events that QYS throws are the most exciting part because it's something that we can do right now,' Croft said.
'It's hard to be Queer and under 21 in Seattle,' Rapiñan said. 'Adults say that it's OK for [Queer] youth to come out, but they don't have places that they can go to that aren't directed by adults. There really needs to be more of a partnership between Queer youth and adults, and I think that QYS is an avenue for that.'
In order for QYS to be such an avenue, the Three Wings campaign needs to find a space. After they find a space, the Cultural Arts Center - also known as the first wing - would be able to open. It would allow for various events such as open-mic nights, rummage sales, concerts, and dance parties to take place.
'We'd like to have an open social space, not like a drop-in center. We want an active space,' Croft said. There would ideally be a broad focus on art, available materials to create art, and the space to display it.
'One thing I was really interested in when I was writing the grant was to make the space non-hierarchical. The people who are coming to the space are the people who own it. The constituency has power over the space and can react and change things as it sees fit.'
In addition to the Cultural Arts Center, the Three Wings campaign would also like to open a café, but the square footage that it would reside on cannot be paid for by city money. The City of Seattle Neighborhood Matching Fund Program prohibits them from using any part of the grant to further generate revenue for the space. After the Cultural Arts Center is created, the Wellness Collaborative Center - the second wing - would be added to it.
'In its youngest form, it would provide mental health services to young people. Eventually it would expand to workshops focused on youth care and wellness and helping young Queer people who don't really know anything about what's out there to get the services that they need,' Croft said.
Lastly, the Research and Education Center - the third wing - would involve working with other organizations on the Hill and getting them to be more accepting of Queer youth. It would also be a space where Queer youth could partake in anti-oppressive and activism training, lead by a coalition of Queer leaders and educators - youth and adult alike.
Lord, who will be graduating this June with a master's degree in social work from the University of Washington, said, 'I would be there to offer whatever resources and support that I have. I would be 100% behind it, but they wouldn't necessarily need my help.'
Members of the Three Wings campaign will be looking at a few more locations this weekend in hopes of finding a space where they can set their plan in motion. Until then, the general sentiments and ambitions of the campaign's members remain strong.
'I got involved with QYS because I felt so hopeful and inspired by this project. I feel energized and awakened by being part of this, and I'm really inspired by the other adults and youth on this project,' Lord said, smiling.
'Any adults who want to get involved, who have special skills, or want to help with fundraising are totally welcome,' Rapiñan said. 'For this to be successful, adults will have to collaborate with us if they really want to change society and if they really want to help Queer youth. I really think that adults need to look at the stats. Forty percent of homeless youth are Queer, but there are no Queer shelters for youth under 18. Also, the only dance space for youth is Neighbours after 2 a.m. There really needs to be a lot more of a welcoming environment for Queer youth.'
After large-scale events such as last year's 'Mutiny' and 'Pink Prom' achieved massive amounts of publicity, there are a lot of people waiting to see what will happen next with the QYS and the Three Wings campaign. Despite becoming quieter after receiving the $100,000, its members insist that 2010 was an amazing year for them - but that 2011 will be even better.
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