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The MacArthur Research Network on Youth and Participatory Politics (YPP) formed out of recognition that youth are critical to the future of democracy and that the digital age is introducing technological changes that are impacting how youth develop into informed, engaged, and effective actors.

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Updated: 35 min 5 sec ago

Remix Your Life Producer Spotlight: Oluwafemi

December 21, 2018 - 8:00am
Oakland Producer Oluwafemi is featured on Remix Your Life’s At the Moment project — available everywhere Jan 11, 2019.

The post Remix Your Life Producer Spotlight: Oluwafemi appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

Destined For Drag

December 20, 2018 - 8:00am

In elementary school, I was a shy, girly boy. I preferred arts and crafts with the girls to soccer with the boys. At home, I played alone with my sisters’ dolls.

When my mom wasn’t home, I’d hide in her room and blast Britney Spears. I’d doll up in her flowered hats and high heels, and put on a show. I was always happiest in my own little pop dream—jumping on the bed and spinning in circles to the music.

I was raised in a strict Mexican family. So I was careful not to flail my wrists or speak too softly—for fear of being told to speak up and act like a man. I dreamed of being a performer, but I believed my glittery fantasies were wrong. I kept my passions hidden in the closet, held back by my lack of confidence and internalized homophobia.

When I was 15, I discovered RuPaul’s Drag Race. A firework went off in me. I was drawn in by the queens’ personalities: so confident, so free, living out their high-heeled truths. Many of them grew up like me. They were weird kids who imitated pop divas. In them, I saw what I could be. That my dress-up games could turn into art.

But you don’t wake up a full-fledged drag queen. It takes practice, patience, and energy. When I’m not at work, I’m planning looks, practicing makeup, or learning dance routines.

My family’s reaction has been better than I expected. My sisters love my outfits. My mom is supportive. She thinks I look like her when I’m in drag. My dad and I haven’t had a conversation about it yet.

When I get ready to go out, I draw on feminine features and push away self-doubt.

I think about the little boy who was scared to be girly. I never thought I’d be dancing in a nightclub, unapologetically being myself. But I am, and I love every second of it.

These famous TV drag queens helped me find the confidence to let my inner queen out. Her name is Poison Oakland, and she’s still me, but fiercer.

Follow Poison on Instagram @poison.oakland.

The post Destined For Drag appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

See Ya, 2018! Check Out Some of Our Favorites

December 19, 2018 - 10:40pm
2018 was a big year for YR: new name, new website and lots of great features…   Did You Know: JUUL Is the New E-Cigarette Vaping was a major storyline in 2018. The FDA cracked down on retailers who sell E-cigarettes to minors. 5 Dope LGBTQ Artists Music is a vehicle for self-love in the LGBTQ community. These artists bring LGBTQ issues to the forefront with their immense talent and creativity.   Found Sounds Ep 1: Latham Square Clay Xavier and Oluwafemi capture the sounds of Downtown Oakland to make a music beat from their environment. Map the Movement YR’s “Map the Movement” tells the story of the youth-led #neveragain grassroots campaign against gun violence. Young, Black and College-Bound: How Race  Matters Three African-American students provide personal commentaries on the college decision-making process. Violent News from El Salvador Replaces My Childhood Memories Andrea Jimenez discusses how news stories from El Salvador have overshadowed her childhood memories. 5150’d: My Journey Through A Psych Ward “I hugged my mom goodbye before the EMT strapped me in, rolled me into an ambulance…” Mistah F.A.B.: A Beautiful Contradiction Artist Mistah F.A.B. talks about his origins, what Oakland means to him, and cultural differences. Can You Teach AI to Dance? Can a computer really determine something as fluidly defined as danceability? The developers at YR weren’t so sure… I Followed the Migrant Caravan Through Mexico Photographer Jair Cabrera captured vivid images for YR as he followed the caravan through Mexico.

The post See Ya, 2018! Check Out Some of Our Favorites appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

The Best of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse OST

December 19, 2018 - 10:33pm

When I went to go see Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, my friends and I found ourselves amazed by many things: the animation, the storytelling, and most of all, the soundtrack. There were so many moments in the theater where we found ourselves dancing and singing along to the songs, even if it was our first time hearing them. Previous Spider-Man soundtracks always felt like studio execs putting together a playlist of what they think teens or young adults listen to, creating a disconnect between the soundtrack and its target audience. However, Into the Spider-Verse’s soundtrack really nails what their main protagonist, Miles Morales, and kids like him would be listening to, furthering the connection audiences have with the character and making us feel like we can relate to him more. Here are five of my favorite songs off the album so far.

Swae Lee & Post Malone – Sunflower

“Sunflower” was released as the lead single off the soundtrack in October and immediately was a hit. Parts of the song were actually featured in the film a couple times, with Miles Morales humming it every now and then, and for good reason — it’s insanely catchy. The song is such a perfect mix of beautiful melodies by Swae Lee and Post Malone, and makes listeners feel like getting up out of their seats to dance. The only downside is that we wish this song was longer.

Aminé – Invincible

“Invincible” feels like it pays homage to old-school music. Aminé takes turns rapping and singing on the track’s infectious beat. This track anticipates the predictable in the best way, and adds a melodious hook to an already sweet-like song.

Duckwrth & Shaboozey – Start a Riot

This is probably the hardest song on the album. Listening to this makes you feel like you’re in a fight scene inside a superhero action movie. Its crazy fast-paced and energetic beat, as well as the screaming of its hook’s lyrics, feels like “Start a Riot” was meant to incite listeners and, well, actually start a riot.

DJ Khalil (feat. Denzel Curry, YBN Cordae, SwayVay, Trevor Rich) -Elevate

The lyrics, “Can’t stop me, can’t break me/What don’t kill me, gon’ make me/Shoot for the stars, no safety,” sums up perfectly what we think goes through our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man’s mind when he’s slinging around the city. “Elevate” was penned as a personal anthem for Spider-Man, but listeners will find themselves motivated and energized by the spirited track as well.

Vince Staples – Home

A lot of Vince Staples’s music feels like hymns for modern-day comic book superheroes. And after his contribution to the Black Panther soundtrack with “Oops” early this year, it’s no surprise we’re hearing from him again on Spider-Man’s soundtrack. “Home” is both the film and the soundtrack’s closing song, and feels rightfully so. With its intense music and dramatic background vocals, the track feels like a piece that leaves both its protagonist and the audience feeling victorious.

The post The Best of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse OST appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

Listen to Our Favorite Albums from 2018

December 19, 2018 - 6:33pm

2018 was a healthy year for music, artists everywhere poured their heart and soul into their projects. While most people focus only on streaming numbers or get lost in viral hits and meme-ability, other gems were overlooked and didn’t get the attention they deserve. No matter the genre or popularity, the 10 artists mentioned in our list delivered nothing but stellar projects.

Janelle Monáe – Dirty Computer

By Symphreona Clark

Janelle Monáe is over a decade into her career, but her music is still as fresh and cohesive as ever. Dirty Computer marks her third studio album, and first in five years since her last project The Electric Lady. The singer/songwriter has been pushing the boundaries of R&B music since her debut in 2007, leaving critics not knowing what genre to box her in. If anything, it’s Janelle Monáe’s biggest strength, transcending the concept of a genre to create her own unique sound, similar to what the late artist Prince did with his music. Dirty Computer has been compared to Prince’s work, and rightfully so since he helped Monáe create the sound for the album before his death; working on records like the album’s lead single “Make Me Feel.” Accompanying the album’s release, Janelle Monáe also released a 46-minute short film starring herself and actress Tessa Thompson. The film is a powerful resistance piece, set in a futuristic, totalitarian regime, we see the pair as lovers trying to escape and thrive from the society’s restrictive constraints. In Dirty Computer, Janelle Monáe leads the exploration of love, liberation, black girl magic, and her sexuality in a renaissance-like fashion that is both bold and invigorating.

Tierra Whack – Whack World

By Rami KD

Whack World by Tierra Whack is a uniquely surreal and amazing album. With each song being only a minute long, and each having its own individual music video, the album comes out to be a 15-minute long music visual masterpiece. At its core, Whack World is an emotional listening experience, each song has a completely different vibe, story, and flow. Each song blends together perfectly, seamlessly transitioning between songs, almost as if it mimics the way we process emotions. The visuals are bright, surreal, meaningful, and create a dream-like scene, composed of each individual music video brought together. These visuals, paired with thoughtful lyrics, tie the album together to make an amazing audiovisual experience worth listening to and watching on repeat.

Mozzy – Gangland Landlord

By Will Flattery-Vickness

After Mozzy was released from a prison stint in 2014, the Sacramento rapper changed his ways. Gangland Landlord is a thoughtful, intense follow-up to Mozzy’s debut album, 1 Up Top Ahk. Mozzy is known for his reflective and hardcore intros, and ends it with a beautiful melodic tribute to his old ways. Mozzy has evolved, graduating from Nor Cal rap to something unique amidst the national scene. Learning from West Coast greats like Kendrick, Mozzy’s flows are undeniable as he spits over production from JuneOntheBeat, Dave, and JPBangz – the same producers he’s worked with for years. Mozzy lends consistency that is often left out of the conversation, the overall quality of production and lyrical content allows for great replay value from the Sacramento native. Gangland Landlord is both heartbreaking and healing; Mozzy is running from his past but it’s far behind him. The album acts as a vulnerable therapy session, making it one of the most honest bodies of work that have been released this year.


By Christian Romo

When you think of experimental, JPEGMAFIA should come across your mind, this album has stood out to me due to its experimental soundscape. From sampling 90’s video-game sound effects to ASMR, the production is dense and unpredictable. His lyrics can also be outrageous, from dropping wrestling references to controversial political quips. With Veteran, JPEGMAFIA provides much-needed range, covering a diverse set of sounds including explosive bangers and lo-fi moody tracks that could easily wind down the environment.

Larry June – Very Peaceful

By Gbaby

The artists that stick around for me, are the ones who are discernible within the first few seconds of hearing their tracks. Larry June is someone who holds that quality for me, from his ad-libs to his tone of voice, you can tell when a Larry June track is playing. June’s voice is smooth as hell and could calm down a wild bear if it wanted to. Fresh out of an unfulfilling major-label deal, Larry June steers clear of an amped-up trap sound that has embodied projects of the past. On Very Peaceful, June leans toward a more dynamic laid-back sound that is an intrinsic reflection of his subdued style. It suits him perfectly. Very Peaceful in its entirety sits in its own pocket, offering my favorite listening experience of 2018 so far. Between the dope features and hilarious ad-libs, it’s a must-listen.

Let’s Eat Grandma – I’m All Ears

By Miguel Anderson

Critics compared this year’s I’m All Ears by Let’s Eat Grandma, to synth-pop styles of Grimes and early Charli XCX releases. While these similarities ring true to some extent, I’m All Ears’s best moments don’t come at the expense of others. Let’s Eat Grandma makes their best moments at the expense of their own shine, they put pop music at the cutting edge of innovation and intriguing storytelling. SOPHIE is just one producer on this album, while she has imprinted her industrial sound on this project, the duo juxtaposes this electronic sound with moody instrumentation to create something truly unique. It’s the house-like synths put at near-dramatic drumming that makes the tune of “Falling Into Me” so intriguing. The pulsating beat of “Hot Pink” makes you feel as if you were on an adventure. The ambient raindrops that fall on the piano-led ballad “Ava” make it so heart-wrenching. Throughout the constant rush of life, where we might lose sight of what’s truly important, I’m All Ears is a reminder that small things are trivial and to continue doing what makes us happy. That happy feeling is executed. That idea is at the core of us all and what makes I’m All Ears so relevant today.

Getter – Visceral

By Jacob Armenta

There is no denying 2018 was a big year for music, across all genres. While there are many contenders for “Album of the Year,” one of our favorite albums is Visceral; an astonishing body of work by Bay Area producer Getter. The 12-track album brings listeners on this beautiful journey through a fascinating world of sound and color crossing the boundaries of electronic music, trap, and bass. Getter made a name for himself back in 2012 with his well-produced and unique take on dubstep. Although Getter got his start in the Electronic scene, he has proven his versatility producing for rappers like $uicideboy$, Ghostemane, Elioze, and his rap alter-ego Terror Reid. Visceral is an album you can listen to multiple times and find a new favorite track each time.

Playboy Carti – Die Lit

By Stoney Creation 

Playboi Carti dropped one of the best albums this past spring. With the support of Pierre Bourne’s eclectic production, Carti graced the Top 10 on the Billboard charts, solidifying his commercial viability. It’s hard to hate on Playboy Carti, his contagious hooks are one of a kind. Die Lit is flawless through and through, however, some of my personal favorites are “Mileage” feat. Chief Keef and “Flatbed Freestyle.” If you want pure feel-good music, Playboy Carti’s Die Lit conveys that feeling with every song.

Kendrick Lamar & Various Artists – Black Panther: The Album

By Noel Anaya

What made the Black Panther soundtrack unique was that it brought people together, it had the right amount of tracks, and lastly, the production is super diverse, including elements of r&b, electronic, world, and dance sounds. The maestro behind this wide sonic landscape is none other than Kendrick Lamar, who executive produced the project alongside Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith. At the time of the release I was in Scotland, I slapped it instantly but so did people in the country I was in and that sealed the deal for me. I can’t think of a movie soundtrack since Space Jam that was this cohesive. The Grammy-nominated Black Panther soundtrack is one of the best albums to come out this year.

Gunna – Drip Season 3

By Zeke Idelson

What began as a coming-out-party in 2018 for Gunna, grew and turned into a takeover. After dropping two charting albums (one of which went platinum) and collaborating with a variety of artists, from Drake to Amine to Mariah Carey, 2018 was the year Gunna elevated from underground to mainstream figure while still maintaining the sound that got him there. Drip Season 3 was the inception; listening to it, it’s easy to understand why. Packed with 17 songs, you can hear Gunna really coming into his own, jam-packed with features from the likes of Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Durk, and Young Thug. However, despite these big names, Gunna also proved his ability to carry his own sound, shining throughout the entire tape, with his signature melodic style while rapping about fashion and money. Drip Season 3 is a complete work of art and was the catalyst for Gunna’s huge year.

The post Listen to Our Favorite Albums from 2018 appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

Ashanti Prod by Oluwafemi – Lovin (Music Video)

December 19, 2018 - 4:49pm

The post Ashanti Prod by Oluwafemi – Lovin (Music Video) appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

How To Be Baller: Finance Expert Sonari Glinton on Flexing For Retirement

December 19, 2018 - 3:44pm

YR Media’s Adult ISH co-hosts Merk Nguyen and Nyge Turner have a chat with their “finance father” Sonari Glinton (also NPR’s former business reporter). What the heck is interest? Why is it important for retirement?Merk wants answers to these questions. Nyge, on the other hand, wants to flex to his friends on Insta. Sonari’s thoughts? Flexing is fine (as long as you’re saving up for the future).

Finance “father” Sonari Glinton: Flexing to your friends = fine (as long as you save for the future).

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Check out the full conversation on YR Media’s Adult ISH podcast (episode 8 – Future ISH).

Merk: What’s the nugget of, “Don’t forget about this when you retire!” information that we all should know?

Sonari: One of the things that is really important to remember about retirement is that the younger you are when you start saving, the sooner you can get [more] out of the system. If you save $100 a week, in 40 years you would have a $1 million because of the miracle of compound interest. It’s not the first five years that you see any growth in the money. It’s literally in year 36, 37, and 39. So, the very first thing you do before you make any money and start burning it, Young Blood, is to start thinking about saving it.

Merk: I know the term ‘interest’ and I kind of know what it represents, but for someone who might not have an idea what interest or compound interest is, can you say what that is?

Nyge: That’s where you lost me. You said the miracle of compound interest and I just kind of started looking at my phone.

Sonari: There is nothing in your life I’m going to tell you that is more important than understanding interest and how it compounds. Interest is when you put money in the bank. Sometimes they say, “Oh! We’ll give you like a little bit of money for just for holding it over.” Let’s say you buy a car that was $24,000 and you pay it back. You have to pay back more money than you got initially. That’s what’s called interest. It applies to retirement because if you save early, you get way more interest. Your money is making money for you. People talk about ballers. Ballers [like professional athletes] have to work out! They gotta do stuff and their money doesn’t last. You know who I want to be? I want to be like Warren Buffett. He just goes to sleep and his money goes and does three-point shots for him.

Nyge: Sonari, can I be 100 percent honest with you? What if I just want to flex? I’m 22. All my friends are graduating college. Everybody’s posting on Instagram. What if I just want to show all my friends that I’m better than them and not be thinking about the long play?

Sonari: Stop thinking about balling. What basketball / football player do you know that has left multigenerational wealth? Has endowed a university? There’s two of them you know of. Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson. Most of the people who are ballin’, have been fallin’. [Professional sports] is the one of the worst careers and especially for people of color. Things are going to come up in your life, man. I used to work at NPR and I used to joke that everybody [there] had a rich uncle and in my family, I was the rich uncle. And when you’re a person of color and maybe lucky enough to have gone to school and get a job, people could be coming for you. Not in a bad way, but because you just need to help out. The problem is there are a lot of people [who] don’t have a lot of money and it’s really hard. There’s a lot of shame in all of this stuff. [But] here’s what’s great about this. You don’t know about this stuff and I know there are nationally recognized reporters who don’t know this either. Just because somebody looks some way doesn’t mean they got it. And remember it’s not about things. When I look back at stuff [I value from 25 years ago], it was that I spent money to go see James Brown. It [was] really the experience. So, live your life — just think about the future. Keep 10 to 15 percent [of your paychecks] aside so that you don’t have to go back to your parents. That is the essence of ballin’. I don’t have to ask anybody for sh*t. That’s being a grown up, that’s being a man, that’s being a baller.

Merk: Sonari, thank you for teaching us the true essence of ballin’ and for trying your best to keep us from blowing all of our money on food, flexing trips, Netflix and Hulu subscriptions. Until next time…

Sonari: You’re welcome. There’s no shame in it all.

The post How To Be Baller: Finance Expert Sonari Glinton on Flexing For Retirement appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

Learning to Be Grateful

December 19, 2018 - 1:26pm

The holidays are here and I’m glad to be able to celebrate another year with my family. Looking back, I realize I haven’t always been grateful.

I haven’t always appreciated my family. I would get annoyed by them. And I wished my life was more luxurious. I wanted the most stylish clothes and hairstyles. I wanted a bigger flat screen TV and better furniture.

It wasn’t until I went over to a friend’s house that my mindset changed. The family had dirty beds. They had soiled furniture. There were stains all over the carpet and garbage on the floor. I saw roaches scurrying up the walls.

When I got home, I realized I didn’t know how good I had it. I saw that I do have a clean bed to sleep in, a stable home and a safe environment. I became grateful for my home and my family.

This holiday season, I’ll be sure to enjoy every moment with my relatives. Instead of worrying about material things, I’m conscious of being grateful because spending time with my family is the biggest luxury.

The post Learning to Be Grateful appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

A Chat with The Onion’s Scott Dikkers about the Future and Elon Musk

December 19, 2018 - 12:02am

Mr. Not Elon Musk (aka The Onion’s Scott Dikkers) believes electric cars will vote in the future.

Mr. Not Elon Musk (aka Scott Dikkers, the founding editor of The Onion) recently dropped a new book “Welcome To The Future Which Is Mine” which explores profound questions about the future such as: When will Alexa and Siri become self-aware and convince us to fall in love with them only to break our hearts? Where are the best hidden valleys on Mars to survive the coming Hair Transplant Wars? YR Media’s Nyge Turner and Merk Nguyen talk to Mr. Not Elon Musk (and Scott) about how The Onion got its start and his controversial stance on an electric car’s right to vote.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length. Check out the full conversation on YR Media’s Adult ISH podcast (episode 8 – Future ISH).

Merk: I got to ask you about my theory on how The Onion got its name.

Scott: Give me your theory and then I will debunk it spectacularly.

Merk: So onions are supposed to make you cry when you cut them and the humor of The Onion is supposed to make you cry from laughter. How on point is that rationale?

Scott: That’s the way that I wish The Onion got its name. Imagine the chutzpah! I wish I was that cocky. The name came from a couple of different places. [The Onion] was started by a group of college students in Madison, Wisconsin who didn’t have any money. I wanted to do a humor magazine because that’s what humor was, it came in [print] magazines. So we went to the printer to get a quote for printing a fancy, full color, glossy magazine. It was like five thousand dollars per issue! So we said, “What’s the cheapest possible paper that we could print on?” and they said newsprint. My heart just sank because nobody ever heard of a humor newspaper. That was ridiculous, but that’s what we could afford. The Onion seemed like a good name for a newspaper because it’s like you peel back the layers to get at the facts of the story.

Merk: So now for our #GOALS segment, we want to introduce Scott’s alter ego, Mr. Not Elon Musk!

Mr. Not Elon Musk (Scott): Oh hello everyone. I’m Not Elon Musk.

Nyge: You said something pretty controversial earlier this year — that electric cars should have the right to vote. You even made a shocking claim that someday there’s going to be a electric car president!

The electric car has my vote. Let me ask you this, would you trust a human being to drive on the street and not strike a pedestrian? I don’t. Would you want that person in the Oval Office?
 I wouldn’t. I would trust the car with a motion sensor. 

Mr. Not Elon Musk (Scott): Oh absolutely. The electric car has my vote. Let me ask you this, would you trust a human being to drive on the street and not strike a pedestrian? I don’t. Would you want that person in the Oval Office? I wouldn’t. I would trust the car with a motion sensor. If you put the motion sensor in the White House, you will be able to sense bad bills so you’d veto the bill. You would be able to sense the mood of the country with your motion sensor and you would know the most patriotic thing to say.

Nyge: It would be more like an e-motion sensor.

Mr. Not Elon Musk (Scott): That is what we will call it. Thank you.

Nyge: Mr. Not Elon Musk, we know that you’re a benevolent CEO trying to do good for the world no matter what race, robot, or electric car model that you are. We also know you are trying to do good with health care. What are your plans as far as health care goes?

Until I replace the U.S. health care system with an artificially intelligent euthanasia-dispensing phalanx of robo
 doctors, laughter is still going to be your best medicine. 

Mr. Not Elon Musk (Scott): Until I replace the U.S. health care system with an artificially intelligent euthanasia-dispensing phalanx of robo doctors, laughter is still going to be your best medicine.

Nyge: So even if I have this crazy disease with my robot arm where I just walk around and it just flips people off automatically while I walk down the street?

Mr. Not Elon Musk (Scott): You’ve got to keep your sense of humor. Whenever you crush someone with your robo arm, you gotta laugh about it.

Nyge: Even if I crush my family members?

Mr. Not Elon Musk (Scott): You can find new people to hang out with.

The post A Chat with The Onion’s Scott Dikkers about the Future and Elon Musk appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

Adult ISH: Future ISH

December 19, 2018 - 12:01am

Harvard Law’s first deaf-blind graduate Haben Girma gets chocolate cake and offers to teach YR Media’s Merk and Nyge how to salsa and surf in Costa Rica. Finance “Father” Sonari Glinton returns to help Nyge flex on his nonexistent retirement game. Mr. Not Elon Musk (aka Scott Dikkers, the founding editor of The Onion) gets controversial with electric car voting rights.

The post Adult ISH: Future ISH appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

Momma, I Made It: Activist Haben Girma

December 18, 2018 - 8:45pm

Disability lawyer Haben Girma talks tech and maybe teaching Nyge Turner and Merk Nguyen salsa dancing!

YR Media’s Merk Nguyen would surf but she doesn’t f*ck with sharks and Nyge Turner would salsa, but he’s more a bachata boy. Haben Girma, Harvard Law’s first deaf-blind graduate, does both and tells Nyge and Merk they gotta set their fears aside and put themselves out there! In this conversation, Haben lays out what she’s doing to remove digital access barriers for people with disabilities, and offers a whole lot more from mama love to chocolate cake.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Check out the full conversation on YR Media’s Adult ISH podcast (episode 8 – Future ISH).

Nyge: I heard you got your start fighting for disability rights at one of my personal favorite places in the world: the school cafeteria.

Haben: Yes! I went to Lewis and Clark College and the cafeteria had about six different food stations. I couldn’t read the menu, not because of my blindness — disability is never the barrier. The problem was the format of the menu. I went to the cafeteria manager and asked, “Can you provide the menu in Braille, post it online, or e-mail it to me?” They told me they were busy, that I should stop complaining and be more appreciative. I don’t know about you, but if there’s chocolate cake and no one tells me, I’m not feeling appreciative! For the first few months, I tolerated it. I told myself, “Why should I complain?” Then my friends reminded me: it’s our choice to accept unfairness, or to advocate and do something about it.

Nyge: So, what’d you do?

Haben: I learned about the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities. I went back to the manager and explained they have a legal obligation to make their services accessible. That conversation changed everything because they realized I wasn’t asking them for a favor, I was asking them to comply with the law. After that, they started providing the menu in accessible formats. Life became delicious!

Merk: Through the power of podcast magic it [seems like] we’re all chatting in the same room, but you’re actually in Palo Alto, California. I’m in the Big Apple. Nyge is in Oakland. Obviously [people] aren’t able to see the logistics of how we’re talking to each other right now. Can you describe how we’re communicating with you?

Haben: I can’t hear you or Nyge but I have an interpreter who’s typing up everything you’re both saying on a keyboard that’s being transmitted to my Braille computer. It’s a small device with Braille dots that pop up. I run my fingers over the dots, feel the dots, and that’s how I know what you’re saying.

Merk: You’ve also traveled the world being [an] advocate for people with disabilities. You’ve spoken at the White House, TED talks, and in many of those conversations, I admire how you reclaim the word “pioneer”. What’s your personal definition of that word and how does it guide your work?

Haben: A pioneer is someone who’s daring enough to try something new. It’s not just about going somewhere new. It could be a mindset or learning a new skill. You’ve mentioned salsa dancing. I learned that because I met a blind salsa dancer at a camp when I was 15. She let me touch her feet, her hands, and showed me how she moves for salsa dancing. I learned I could do it too and I’ve been dancing ever since.

Nyge: What was the hardest thing about learning to salsa?

Haben: Finding dance partners. A lot of people look around the room, watch people make eye contact, then they somehow get that person to come to them. I can’t do that because I can’t see the dancers, so I have several strategies. When I dance with someone I ask them to introduce me to someone else. Oftentimes, they have another friend or I’ll meet up with a friend there and they’ll help me find dance partners.

Merk: On your website it also says that you like to surf, something I’ll never do because of sharks. I’m sorry but screw that! What made you wake up one day and say, “You know what? I’m Haben Girma. I’m awesome. I want to surf”?

Haben: The world is dangerous. You can’t let sharks stop you from doing something fun!

Nyge: I wish I knew how to salsa dance and surf. I can’t do either.

Haben: You guys can do it! It’s a matter of trying, taking lessons, and pushing yourselves.

Nyge: I have a mean bachata but as far as salsa goes? That’s where I get mixed up. Maybe I need to learn from you how to surf and salsa dance! Since we’re talking to you as part of our ‘Momma, I Made It’ conversations, we want to know who your mom is — who is she to you?

Haben: My mom is amazing. She’s from Eritrea and grew up during the Eritrean-Ethiopian War. She took the dangerous journey walking from [her home country] to Sudan at about 16 years old. It took about three weeks and then she was a refugee for about 10 months. When she came to the United States, she had to learn how to get a job, improve her English. Those stories are stories of pioneering. Her stories of making it in America inspired me. She’s not deaf-blind, so growing up, many of the things I was experiencing were new to both of us.

Nyge: We know you’re out on the front lines pushing for tech accessibility for everyone. What kinds of access to tech issues are you really trying to tackle?

Haben: There are a lot of accessibility features that exist, but developers aren’t putting them into websites and apps. I’m trying to teach them to build with accessibility. Developers can have that information display visually, auditorily, through touch, through connecting to a digital Braille display. We don’t want separate websites or apps for people with disabilities. Separate is never equal. Sometimes people think, “Oh! We’ll have the blind website have the same features as the sighted website.” They’ll start out with good intentions, but down the line, the disability site won’t get updated as often. It’ll end up not having the same features and it becomes inferior. That’s not fair.

The post Momma, I Made It: Activist Haben Girma appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

The Real Cost of Fast Fashion

December 18, 2018 - 7:37pm

Do you love those cheap, trendy clothes from stores like H&M and Forever 21? The price point for these clothes might be easy on your wallet, but they’re not so great for the planet.

The post The Real Cost of Fast Fashion appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

Queens of the Border: Drag in El Paso

December 18, 2018 - 6:12pm
Rumor performs onstage at Touch Bar and Nightclub in El Paso, TX. (Photo: Antonio Villaseñor-Baca/ YR Media)

The drag scene at the U.S-Mexico border has continued to illuminate unity and love to a community that’s been dealing with unwanted attention — from migrant families being separated to tougher policing at the border to the arrival of the migrant caravan.

El Paso, otherwise known as the Sun City or El Chuco, has been one of the more politically liberal strongholds in the conservative state of Texas. But it’s the queer community and those aligned with it that have truly made this town friendly and accepting.

Alexander Wright, 27, also known by his stage name, Rumor, is a prominent member of the drag community on the border. His performances have taken him all over the southwest, including Denver, Lubbock, Midland, Las Cruces and Odessa. What started as a weekend pass-time has now turned into a full-time job.

While El Paso is politically liberal, the city’s Catholic roots have remained strong. The current bishop of the El Paso diocese, Mark Seitz, called the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that legalized gay marriage a “tragic” event. But while some community leaders continue to promote divisive messages, Wright and other members of the drag community are focused on spreading unity and acceptance through their performances.

In this interview, Wright explains how his stage persona came about and how unique drag culture is at a bordertown like El Paso.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length. 

Antonio Villaseñor-Baca: Can you tell me how you came to be a “drag queen?”

Alexander “Rumor” Wright: I am a drag persona or drag performer. I go by the name of Rumor. I started out doing theatre a couple years ago. And then I had a couple shows where I had to be in drag — I had to be a woman — and I did that and it was something that enticed me to the world of drag, but not really. Because I never expected to be a drag queen. So then one day my friend just put me in drag [clothes] and I ended up becoming Ms. Wright and then Rumor. It used to be every Halloween I was in drag. That’s how it starts with everyone. On Halloween, that’s the night that every little gay boy wants to be a girl.

A reflection of Alexander Wright in the mirror as he transforms into his stage persona “Rumor.”(Photo: Antonio Villaseñor-Baca/ YR Media)

AVB: What has been the reception to this type of work, especially here on the border?

Rumor: Theater-wise, everyone accepted it. I’m still kind of on the fence about going out in public in drag. Like, I’ll go to the gas station and if I have to [be in drag] that’s fine. But ugh, it’s just something that you never know. I love El Paso. I’ve never had a single issue because I’m there to do a job. Basically, whether you appreciate what we do or not do, we’ll perform for you. Every queen here goes through it. You go through that period where you go like, ‘OK, this is going to be my first time going out in public. What are people going to think of me?’ But you know what? At the end of the day you’re there to entertain. You’re there to be this persona, so you just have to accept it.

AVB: What was it like the first time you did drag? How did your friends and family take it?

Rumor: My friends since high school have been pushing me to do drag, but I never wanted to. I was stuck in theater directing, producing and all that. My family, actually, I would just say like my mom is the only family that I have. I mean, I have a family, it’s just one of those things where you grow up and they end up knowing what you’re going to become, you know, being gay, and they don’t want you around. I’m not upset by it. But I’ve become what I’ve become because my mom has always allowed me to be who I want to be. She’s accepted all the crazy things that I’ve done theatrically so might as well just become a drag queen. So it’s not something out of the norm for her. My dad’s never said anything. He’s like, ‘As long as you make money.’ That’s basically it.

Alexander Wright getting ready backstage at Touch Bar and Nightclub in El Paso, Texas. Photo: Antonio Villaseñor-Baca/ YR Media)

AVB: What’s it like to perform outside of El Paso?

Rumor: Everything is very refined and very polished here [in El Paso]. In Las Cruces, they love it. They eat it up. Because they don’t have the type of community that El Paso does. What I love in Las Cruces is they accept the art, they accept the art form of it. They’re there to be entertained. They accept it because, like I said, they don’t have that community over there like [El Paso.] And then in Odessa and Midland and Lubbock, you’re an out of town girl. All these cities have shown us love, just as we’ve reciprocated it when they’ve come here, too, to visit El Paso.

AVB: How is the drag scene in El Paso unique?

Rumor:  Well first of all, we’re in El Paso and Juarez [Mexico]. We’re basically one entity in its own. We’re like a tightknit family. I’m not saying other places aren’t, it’s just that you don’t see a lot of hate crime going on, you don’t see bullying or people being nasty towards each other. Here we actually try to support each other. And the clubs try to work together. Like Pride Square [a string of gay bars in downtown El Paso], each club tries to work together. They try to support not only the queens but also male performers and anyone who is a performer. What makes it unique is that the community of El Paso, here you have the Latina, the Hispanic culture. And it’s very direct so you get to emulate it here. Like you have that going through your blood. You’re able to do Hispanic numbers, which would be accepted here because a lot of the people that attend these shows are Hispanic and they know those songs. They relate to it, they get very into it. It’s an ethereal experience.

Alexander “Rumor” Wright looks at himself in the mirror as he does his makeup. (Photo: Antonio Villaseñor-Baca/ YR Media)

AVB: Aside from the music, how else does the Latina culture or influence affect the drag scene?

Rumor: It influences us because we’re born Mexican, we’re born Hispanic. So a lot of us try to do numbers that we can feel. It’s also about the expression that you put into your art. A lot of girls are proud of being Hispanic here, so they love to do those numbers because it’s not only entertaining but also connecting. It’s something that another Hispanic individual would understand. It’s one of those cultural things where you just connect.

AVB: Could you describe the audiences you get and the people that hire you, specifically here in El Paso?

Rumor:  Here in El Paso, the club owners are amazing. The show directors have always been super kind to me. I’ve never had an issue with any of them. We’re one community here, so there’s no way of arguing or being petty with each other. And the audiences here are always awesome. Everyone’s been so accepting and they just love it. Everyone knows the girls here. They love each and every one and it’s something that I really admire here in El Paso.

The post Queens of the Border: Drag in El Paso appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

ET Ep 8: Inertia

December 18, 2018 - 12:37pm
Extra Terrestrial is part of YR Media’s Sonic Sphere. Graphics by Jacob Armenta.

The post ET Ep 8: Inertia appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

Behind the Scenes: “Lovin” Music Video

December 17, 2018 - 3:30pm
Go behind the scenes with Remix Your Life at the video shoot for the first single off the At the Moment mixtape. Produced by Oluwafemi with vocals by Ashanti, “Lovin” drops everywhere December 19!

The post Behind the Scenes: “Lovin” Music Video appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

What You Need to Know About Tumblr’s Ban on Porn

December 17, 2018 - 3:15pm

Okay, people. Let’s talk about Tumblr’s ban on pornography.

I don’t like talking about porn, or sex, even with my best friends. In private. Because I am a prude. But I’m writing about porn today. On the Internet, for you all to see. I’m only doing this because I think it’s that important.

Today is the first day of Tumblr’s ban on any content it deems “adult.” From now on, photos, illustrations, videos and GIFs of genitalia, “female presenting nipples,” and any depictions of sex will no longer be allowed.

The decision came after a series of events that, I think, forced their hand.  

On November 16, Tumblr was no longer available in the App Store. The reason was not immediately clear, but three days later Tumblr released a statement saying: “A routine audit discovered content on our platform that had not yet been included in the industry database” — and by that, they mean, “media featuring child sexual exploitation and abuse.” The content was removed immediately, but it appears the damage had been done.

Apple has always stated they will not allow iOS apps in the store that have pornography on them (how Tumblr got away with this for so long, I do not understand). So it wasn’t until Tumblr had banned ALL pornographic content that the app was allowed back on iPhones and iPads.

Okay. Remember, I said I was a prude? Let me just say, even I think this is silly.

First of all, “female presenting nipples?” I am soooooo over this genderized stigma about nipples! Everyone has them, and the fact that female-ish ones are inherently more sexual or inappropriate is some Victorian-era nonsense.

Also, in their announcement about the changed guidelines, Tumblr said “It is our continued, humble aspiration that Tumblr be a safe place for creative expression, self-discovery, and a deep sense of community.” This makes it sound like sex is not safe. Or at least, images of sex are not safe. And while it’s not safe for work, and some versions of it may not be at all, grown-ass people should be able to talk about, draw, document, and have sex. In public, online even, if they want to. And I cannot believe I am saying this, but ultimately I think that freedom of speech, so long as it is not hate speech or illegal, is more important than my or anyone else’s squeamishness.

This business with Tumblr demonstrates just how much power Apple and other large companies have online. And since we are always online with our phones, they have quite a bit, perhaps too much, power over a large portion of our lives.

Apple’s documented distaste for adult content makes it difficult for artists, particularly queer artists, to make a living creating beautiful things about sex, love, the human body. Tumblr was a great place for artists to build community and reputation by posting their work and engaging the audience that consumed and shared it. There aren’t too many platforms that allow for long posts and social sharing the way Tumblr did.

Starting today, all the porny users who want this content will have to go elsewhere. Sites that have been mentioned include Twitter, Ello, and Sharesome.

If you’re interested in more Deep Thoughts about this, check out these writers.

The post What You Need to Know About Tumblr’s Ban on Porn appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

Iranian Street Style and Modest Fashion

December 13, 2018 - 5:35pm

YR Media talks with Muslim fashion blogger Hoda Katebi at the de Young Museum’s Contemporary Muslim Fashions exhibit in San Francisco. She discusses Iranian “illegal” fashion and how there is so much more to “modest” fashion than what meets the eye.

The Contemporary Muslim Fashions exhibit runs until Jan. 6, 2019.

Learn more about the exhibit and how you can visit.

Read more about her project Tehran Streetstyle here.

The post Iranian Street Style and Modest Fashion appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

Ella Fields is a 15-Year-Old Filmmaker to Follow

December 13, 2018 - 12:51pm

When it comes to representation of the LGBTQ+ community, we still have a long ways to go. Even with mainstream films such as Love Simon, Call Me By Your Name and a handful of others released over the past few years, the film industry still lacks LGBTQ stories. And that is exactly what a new wave of young filmmakers is trying to tackle. One of the most refreshing short films I’ve seen is Bubble Gum, directed, shot and written by 15-year-old Ella Fields, a videographer and photographer from LA.

Bubble Gum follows a girl named Indigo who falls in love with a girl named Blossom. The only issue is that Indigo is straight. When I first watched Bubble Gum when it was released during Pride Month, I fell in love with the characters. Fields doesn’t make a stereotypical, dramatic big thing about two girls falling in love with each other — even though neither of them explicitly says that they are gay. Fields found a way to bring seriousness to the two main characters, while also making the love between the two seem as normal as heterosexual representation in movies.

YR Media’s Aria Bendy spoke to Fields about making Bubble Gum and what it’s like being a young filmmaker producing queer content.  

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Aria Bendy: I just want to say thank you because I’ve been actually watching your films for a really long time. What inspired you to start making films?

Ella Fields: No way, that’s awesome! So, I’ve always kind of been into filmmaking for almost as long as I can remember. Around when I was 6, my dad got my sister and me this camera that we used. And we would just mess around with it. Most of my inspiration comes from the feeling that it gives me when I make the film, because it is my passion and it is what I love most.

Aria: I love seeing you grow on YouTube ‘cause it’s just like you always top yourself with every film. What goals do you have with making films?

Ella: I think the main goal that I have when creating any film, no matter what it’s about, is to show people that they can speak up. I just want to take as much advantage as I can of this voice that I have and this platform that I have in order to show how I’m feeling about the world and how I view it.

Aria:  Where did you come up with the concept for Bubble Gum?

Ella: Basically what I wanted to show with Bubble Gum was that really, really confusing process of trying to understand your sexuality and come to terms with it. One thing that I realized recently is that sexuality is never black and white. I just wanted to show that there are in-between lines and you can identify as one thing, but then there can be exceptions and then you can change your identity…Sexuality is such a fluid thing and I just want to represent that.

Aria: What responses did you get from the film Bubble Gum?

Ella: I got a lot of people saying that this is actually exactly how they felt when going through any of these stages in their life. I’ve also had some people saying that the film helped them come to terms with anything that they were feeling, or their sexuality, and that just made me feel really good ‘cause that’s exactly what I was trying to do with Bubble Gum.

Aria: How do you think the film industry can push itself to create more films like yours that represent queer people?

Ella: I think that the more content that is put out there, it’ll eventually start to catch-on and it will become more normalized. Because I want [there] to become a time when [a film like Bubble Gum] doesn’t have to be labeled as like an LGBTQ film. I’m hoping that eventually it can get to the point where it is just a film about life and things that people go through and I am just a director and not a female director. I think people will start to see it as more of a normal thing, and not such a scary or different thing.

Aria: What challenges have you faced being such a young filmmaker?

Ella: I mean being a young filmmaker is definitely difficult because there are a lot of things that I’m still not able to do because of my age and I get discredited sometimes because of my age. I know that this is something that a lot of Gen Z people have a problem with. Sometimes from older generations, it can be just like, “Oh you don’t know what you’re talking about…you haven’t been on this Earth as long as us.” So being a young filmmaker is really, really tricky for me — to find a place for myself in this business. But I have the tools that I need to make films that matter to me right now. So I’m trying to find the beauty and the freedom that I have at this moment.

Aria: What advice would you give to people that want to start making films or narratives of their own?

Ella:  Okay, and this is such a cheesy piece of advice, but I feel it’s so true. One of the most important things to remember is that you’re not going to be good at first and that’s kind of just the way that it is. It’s impossible to start out and be the best you can right at the beginning. So I think my biggest piece of advice is just to go write a story and start creating things and don’t have any expectations for it.

The post Ella Fields is a 15-Year-Old Filmmaker to Follow appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

Comedian Lane Moore’s Advice on “How To Be Alone”

December 13, 2018 - 12:03am

Tinder LIVE! Creator Lane Moore gives us “moore” on dealing with loneliness.

Dealing with loneliness can be a freakin’ bummer. Just ask comedian Lane Moore who wrote a book titled “How To Be Alone.” The actress/writer/musician tells YR Media’s Merk Nguyen and Nyge Turner much of the advice out there is generic bullsh*t but who needs that when you have Lane to tell you straight up how to get through your sh*t?

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Check out the full conversation on YR Media’s Adult ISH podcast (episode 7 – Self ISH).

Nyge: You’re the creator of a live comedy show called Tinder LIVE! Can you give us a little spiel about what goes on in the show?

Lane: I project my Tinder screen onto a big projector and the audience votes right or left. I like to say they choose my sexual destiny. I’ve had comedians, writers, Broadway stars, and musicians on panels with me. They help me analyze the profiles and it’s very good-natured. We really only go after the weirdest dudes like that white guy with cornrows whose name is Amen.

Nyge: Let’s talk about your book called “How To Be Alone: If You Want To, and Even If You Don’t“. What are some big things you want people to know about it?

Lane: As a world, we’re lonelier than we’ve ever been. We’re always on social media. It looks like we’re having this wonderful time, but everyone I know — even the most famous internet people — are so lonely and sad. I wanted to write a book from my perspective. I raised myself. I didn’t have a really great family situation [and] that’s really impacted how I’ve been able to connect with people in terms of making friends, jobs, relationships, things like that. I would say that’s number one. Number two: I wanted to create a book that made people feel seen and loved, if you truly feel like you have no one.

Merk: You’re our go-to guru as we’re aiming to reach our #allbymyself goals. Cue Celine Dion. That cool with you?

Lane: Anything for Celine.

Merk: A theme in your book is heartbreak. It’s a very human experience that doesn’t always stem from a romantic place and can lead us to being alone, for better or for worse. We wanted your expertise on moving on past that.

Lane: It takes time and you have to learn how to become your own best friend. You have to peel that onion [and get to the root of your loneliness]. I really can’t give you the dumbass advice most people would give like, “Be strong! Move on girl!” That advice is bullsh*t. It [should be about] finding fundamental truths.

Nyge: I think all of us can get caught up in our thoughts. That’s a good thing when it’s about positive stuff but then when it’s negative, it can get out of hand. What can you do to break yourself out of those bad habits?

Lane: Practice. I can be so hard on myself when I can’t break out of that loop. [I also] found this magical dog. I really believe in the power of animals, especially if people haven’t been that great to you. A lot of animals need homes. I think it’s good if you’re in a place where that’s something you can physically, emotionally, and financially do. It can be a person [or] a frickin’ app that checks in on you. Just having backup. I often joke “How To Be Alone” is a self-help book for people who hate self-help books. There’s a lot of self-help stuff, but it’s also meant to be funny and feel like you’re talking to a friend.

Merk: One of your chapters is called “Happy Holidays To Everyone But You, You Lonely Weirdo”. You write a letter from your future to past self. Can you read part of that?

Lane: Okay, I’ll start with this:

“It’s totally normal if you get depressed before the holidays start. I usually get depressed for every holiday, except Halloween. I want you to know that I care about you because I know that you sometimes lie to people and tell them you have huge plans when your plans are to try to not get overwhelmed with the burden of your sadness and the reflection of everyone else’s socially normal happiness. I forgive you for that lie because I know why you told it. Forgive yourself for it too. Take care of the part of you that wishes you had a normal family…Take care of the part that feels “other” throughout the holiday season and more than anything, feel proud of yourself because…you’re still here….Sometimes that’s the bravest thing of all, and if you don’t believe me, it’s a line in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

The post Comedian Lane Moore’s Advice on “How To Be Alone” appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

Adult ISH: Self ISH

December 13, 2018 - 12:01am

Demetrius Harmon (fka MeechOnMars on Vine) gets in his feels about how his mom saved his life and why communities of color struggle to talk about depression. Comedian and musician Lane Moore tackles Celine Dion inspired #allbymyself goals and talks about her book “How To Be Alone.” NPR’s former business reporter Sonari Glinton rants about credit scores and crushes Nyge’s Jeep Wrangler dreams.

The post Adult ISH: Self ISH appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog