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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: 29 min 11 sec ago

Could Texts From College Help You Graduate?

November 15, 2018 - 12:18pm

To meet their goals or graduate on time, college students traditionally check in with advisors or academic counselors. But times are changing, and some students in California are getting academic “nudges” as text messages sent out via artificial intelligence.

Getting life advice from an algorithm isn’t that weird when you consider how much we already talk to our phones — from Siri to bot therapists. Many colleges see text-message nudges as promising ways to support students in achieving their goals and staying in school.

This practice is based on behavioral science. Studies suggest that nudging may help keep young people who are “at risk” (for example, current or former foster youth) in school, as well as help them with other life skills.

We wanted to know more about how nudging is being used to support college students, so YR Media’s Noel Anaya sat down with Cecilia Le, managing director at Persistence Plus, an education platform that helps schools send out nudges.

The following interview has been edited for clarity and length.


Noel Anaya: Are these nudges done by real people? 

Cecilia Le: So it’s both automated and human. People are designing them. We have a team of behavioral scientists who have designed thousands of nudging interactions that help students meet the challenges of college. Then our intelligence software system delivers these [as text messages] to students right at the time that they’ll be most helpful. We’re able to support tens of thousands of students across California, in a way that is personalized and differentiated and can meet their individual challenges

NA: Can you give me some examples?

CL:  Let’s say that a student says that their goal was to study for their biology test. So we might ask, “When and where are you going to do that?”

And if they say, “at the library on Tuesday after class,” they would actually get a follow up [text] on Tuesday like, “Your plan was to study at the library. How’s it going?”

And from there let’s say the students said they didn’t get a chance to do it. They might get other nudges to help them break [that] down. “Well what were the obstacles? And how could you do things differently to get to your goal?”

NA:  As a former foster youth, I could see certain resources, like going to see an academic counselor, as being overwhelming for some students. Are there ways to handle situations where a kid is hesitant?

CL: We see that a lot. Students may feel stigma around certain challenges. They may need a nudge to connect with [the] support that’s available on campus.

We know so many college students are struggling to meet basic needs, like food, housing, or transportation. It may not be obvious on the surface, but many other students on campus are also facing this challenge. Students may at first feel a little more comfortable engaging with this type of support over a text-messaging channel.

NA: Is there any evidence that nudges are effective?

C: We took part in a randomized controlled trial, nudging students at three different community colleges. Students who were getting the nudges returned at a rate 10 percentage points higher than students who were randomly chosen not to receive these nudges.

N: Have you ever come across situations where the nudge isn’t working and a young person asks you to “stop that”?

CL: I think that when we first started out, students were coming every day and they were like “Hey, that’s way too much,” and so now [the texts are] a couple of times a week.

NA: Are there ethical concerns when it comes to nudging?

CL: The idea behind nudging is that it is never coercive. The nudge should be helping the person to accomplish a goal that they already have.

NA: Is there a favorite automated nudge that a lot of students like?

CL: We ask students to write themselves a motivational message at the beginning of the school year. This message comes in their own words, and it could be anything from “Don’t forget that you’re doing this for your kids” to ”You’ve come so far, you can’t give up now.” Students actually get this motivational message played back to them, and it usually means a lot to them to see their own words.

The post Could Texts From College Help You Graduate? appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

#GOALS: Improviser Marlee Grace

November 15, 2018 - 11:56am

Dancer Marlee Grace has two voices in her head: Gloria and Roger

Marlee Grace is the author of the book How to Not Always Be Working, and is known for her self-help practice dancing/improv videos on her Instagram. She gives YR Media’s Nyge Turner and Merk Nguyen advice on how to chill out and talk to the two people (Gloria and Roger) all of us have living in our heads.   

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Check out the full conversation on YR Media’s Adult ISH podcast (episode 3 – Life ISH).

Nyge: Marlee’s a writer and improviser known for her dancing videos on IG. But these aren’t your typical dancing videos, are they Marlee?

Marlee: They’re not your typical dancing videos. They are anywhere from a beautiful ocean at sunset, to me dancing to Justin Bieber and being very dedicated to it.

Nyge: You have a book called How to Not Always be Working. Sounds pretty self-explanatory but can you give us a little rundown on what it’s about?

Marlee: Yes. The point is not how to work a bunch before you’re 28 and then retire. It’s literally about how do we all commit to taking breaks and resting? There’s a page where I joke that the book could have been one page that just says, “Turn your phone off, go outside, and don’t tell anyone you did it.”

Nyge: Yeah, that’s kind of the age we live in. You have to document all of your experiences. And that’s why we’ve got you here today to help us reach our #chilloutgoals.

Merk: So, sometimes I feel like I’m overwhelmed by how much I have to do. I graduated recently and now I live in New York City. It’s great, but I’m in my twenties figuring out how to have a long-distance relationship with my partner and my family. So a big part of me knows it’s all going to be fine. But then there’s that other voice in my head that’s like “You can’t do this.” How do you suggest getting that [voice] out of my head?

Marlee: I just turned 30, so it’s really sweet hearing you talk about being in your twenties. I remember what that was like eight weeks ago. You know, I think I have two voices. One I named Roger and one I named Gloria. Gloria’s a powerful businesswoman. Roger is an asshole. [He’s] usually like, “You’re gonna fail, so why even start?” I used to be so sad and like, “Roger’s right. I have failed so many times. Might as well not start.”

You know, I think I have two voices. One I named Roger and one I named Gloria. Gloria’s a powerful businesswoman. Roger is an asshole. 

But then I just sort of started greeting Roger and was like, “Hey man. Thanks for stopping by but me and Gloria are going to take care of this over here.” Long story short, making them into characters helps me.

Nyge: So, there’s this thing called F.O.M.O. (fear of missing out). We all have felt that at times on Snapchat, Twitter, and stuff like that where we see all of our friends being super cool and showing how important they all are. When you see your friends living that way, that makes you kind of compare yourself to them. My question is: do you feel like phone addiction is a real thing and what should you do about it?

Marlee: [On my dancing Instagram account], generally when I’m dancing to pop music and people are like, “Oh my god! You’re having so much fun,” [that video] is a day I have just cried and haven’t left the house. So, I put that music on. It’s interesting that a lot of times when I’m showing myself feeling extreme joy, [it’s actually] me getting out of something that’s actually very dark. Being addicted to your phone has an emotional [aspect]. Good job Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. None of us can put our phones down or live our lives anymore.

Merk: Even when it comes to doing things that aren’t supposed to be stressful, there are moments where I feel there’s not enough time to do all the things I want. How should I go about dealing with those kinds of anxieties and fears?

Marlee: Little recharges: remembering to pack water, remembering to pack snacks, tapping into different herbs that can be calming. There’s a lot of different things we can do to slow our days down and it kind of goes back to the phone. Just turn your phone off.

Nyge: I tried to get Merk on meditating.

Marlee: I talk about this in my book too. I’m like, “Try meditating for one minute. Try for 10. Do it for an hour.” With all this, it’s just about experimenting. It’s a mind game that “I don’t [think I] have 10 minutes a day.” You do have 10 minutes.

Nyge: You’ve talked about Roger and how Gloria’s your girl, but what are some other positive things you can tell yourself to combat Roger?

Marlee: I listen to certain artists who are maybe in a different tax bracket than I am, but they just love their lives. They love being powerful and successful and they love their friends. I think that’s less of something I say to myself but more of an action I do. Again, the Roger voice is like, “You aren’t deserving of success.” Sometimes you just [got to] flip the sentence. “I am deserving of success.” My hope is I can then redistribute that success to people who I believe in.

The post #GOALS: Improviser Marlee Grace appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

Adult ISH: Life ISH

November 15, 2018 - 12:01am

OWN’s Love Is ___ actor Will Catlett spills the deets on how he fell in love in one night like his character Yasir and what dating was like back in the day (quick answer: more class and less @ss.) Writer and dancer Marlee Grace shares the power of two imaginary people in her head — Gloria and Roger. Then Adult ISH co-hosts Merk and Nyge chop it up on whether you should watch Netflix (or Hulu) with subtitles or nah…especially when it comes to scary movies and Kevin Hart standup.

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

Categories: Blog

Despite Decrease in Foster Youth, Same Struggles Remain

November 14, 2018 - 12:03pm

Simone Biles recently made history by becoming the most decorated female gymnast of all time and winning her fourth all-around world title. She is also a former foster kid.

Last year, she told People Magazine, “I was so young, I didn’t quite understand what was going on. But I recall some of the kids coming to the foster home with only the clothes on their back and a backpack.”

Eventually, Biles was taken out of the foster care system, when her grandparents adopted her. Sadly, not all foster youth have such lucky twists of fate. As November is National Adoption Awareness Month, let’s turn our attention to the struggles other foster children—and foster families—face.

According to a new study by the Chronicle of Social Change, the number of kids in foster care in America has decreased as a whole. There are almost 4,000 fewer foster children projected to be in the system in 2018 compared to a year ago. 

However, there isn’t reason to celebrate yet.

While the number of kids in the system has dropped, so has the number of homes available to foster youth that are outside of those children’s families. In particular, Minnesota, Mississippi, and Rhode Island have lost about a third of their non-relative foster homes. Even states where the number of foster homes stayed stable continue to feel the burden. For instance, California has 53,000 children in foster care in 2018. There were only about 14,000 non-relative homes available to them.  

With the lack of non-relative homes, the system increasingly places youth in the homes of family members, without adequate compensation. Almost every state saw an increase in family placements.

The number of family placements will most likely increase with the passage of the Family First Prevention Services Act, which limits the funds for group homes, and redirects money for mental health counseling and substance abuse treatment.

Biles is aware of the incredible financial hardship that foster families face. She told People, “It’s hard going into the system with hardly anything, because even though foster parents may receive a stipend, sometimes it’s not enough to cover all the necessities.”

The post Despite Decrease in Foster Youth, Same Struggles Remain appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

Are Retro Games History? A Q&A with MasJ of EmuParadise

November 14, 2018 - 11:55am

When I was a kid, I loved video games, but I didn’t have a ton of money to spend on them, nor the consoles required to play. So when a friend of mine told me about game emulation, it kind of blew my mind.

“Wait, I can play video games on my computer for free?”

—11-year-old me, probably

It’s easy to learn how to use an emulator: Think of it as a software clone of a specific game console. Download the right emulators for the consoles you need, pick out some game files (also called ROMs, after the file format) and open them in the emulator software. And yeah, I realized at the time that this wasn’t totally legal. But, speaking for myself, I didn’t see a lot of harm in emulating older games, like Pokemon Fire Red, or Ocarina of Time. They were less demanding to run on my janky computer anyway.

Now fast forward ten years: This Monday, November 12th, two popular ROM hosting sites (LoveROMS and LoveRETRO) were ordered to pay $12.23 million in damages to Nintendo for posting copyrighted intellectual property. All that remains on the websites is an apology letter to Nintendo.

When the lawsuits were originally filed in July, they had a chilling effect on the community that has grown around emulation over the last two decades. Many reliable, well known ROM websites quickly removed public access to their content to avoid being hit with similar retaliation.

But emulation proponents say that ROM websites can be historical archives. If previous-generation games aren’t somehow preserved digitally, their physical forms will deteriorate and eventually become unplayable.

Right after the lawsuits were originally filed, I got to speak with MasJ, the founder of EmuParadise— arguably the most well-known source for retro and classic video game ROMs, and one of my favorite websites from back in the day. We spoke about the lawsuit’s impact on the future of gaming and game archives, and what this says about public domain.

This interview has been edited for clarity & brevity.

Desmond: What is EmuParadise, and how and why did it come to be?

MasJ: We’re a group of video game preservationists. A lot of the movies from the 1920s and 30s have been lost because nobody bothered to preserve them. With video games, what we’re trying to do is make sure that that doesn’t happen. We archive video games from their original formats and convert them into ROMs. Then we store them and make them available to people so that they can relive the gaming experiences that they used to have as children or as young adults. It’s a great pleasure to be able to play something that you did as a child, and if you want to get a secondhand game like from the ’80s or ’90s, sometimes it’s upwards of 500 dollars. What we’ve been trying to do is disseminate culture, as well as preserve it at the same time.

Desmond: Do you play games yourself? How did you get into this?

MasJ: Yeah, I play a lot of video games. I used to play a lot more than now. But I didn’t have access to a lot of these retro game titles because I grew up in India, and we didn’t have official releases of a lot of these retro game consoles when they were current in the ’80s and ’90s. So when I got an internet connection, I found out about emulation, and I was like, “Wow, this is so cool! I can play all these games that I never got to play.” And I realized that there weren’t a lot of websites about this, so that’s how it got started.

Desmond: What’s your favorite game?

MasJ: I have to say Chrono Trigger for the Super Nintendo.

Desmond: That’s cool. Did you find that through emulation?

MasJ: Yeah. I didn’t have a Super Nintendo, or a Nintendo, or a Gameboy, or even an Atari. The first consoles that actually started to get released where I live were the PlayStation 1 and beyond. So I saw a lot of games through emulation. Even today, there are people who are in countries like Brazil, and the Philippines, and Indonesia, who are able to play these games because of emulation.

Desmond: Tell me what happened when you took all your games down. Why did you make that decision?

MasJ: It’s been a long journey. Ever since we started the site in the year 2000, we’ve been receiving letters or takedown requests for some titles. Imagine you get a takedown request for some obscure retro title, and you just take it off. And that’s it, you’re done, right? We kept doing that, and we figured that was good enough. In fact, we were pretty prompt with our responses. But what happened recently, given the whole lawsuit, was that there were no takedown requests sent. There was just a humongous lawsuit filed [against LoveRoms and LoveRetro,] and that was it. When we saw that, we were like, “OK, maybe we need to rethink our position on this, because we’re not going to be able to make it out of that kind of lawsuit alive as a community.”

Desmond: How many of the games you host are retro titles?

MasJ: It’s only retro games, actually. We don’t host anything which is on the market. Everything is off the market and extremely hard to find, even in a secondhand kind of situation. We love the gaming industry, we love the games, we’re not out to harm the gaming industry. Our whole idea is to do no harm and still have a good time and be able to play these games and enjoy them.

Desmond: What do you think is at stake with the loss of ROMs on these websites?

MasJ: The entire history of video games is at stake. We’ve been making efforts to preserve and disseminate these games for 18 years now. They’re becoming harder and harder to find. I’m confident that there are people who will make efforts to preserve all this stuff, but it’s going to get more and more difficult, and the harder it gets to find, the harder it gets to preserve. With these shutdowns, access is definitely going to get curtailed and preservation efforts will definitely fall behind, because it also has a chilling effect on people who are trying to preserve these games. I don’t think game emulation itself is going to be affected significantly. There’s a slowdown when this kind of stuff happens, but then it picks up steam again eventually because the truth is that people are really passionate about this stuff. [The video games that we grew up with] are part of our shared cultural heritage. It might slow down for a bit, but then there will be somebody else who will take on the challenge. There are other sources, EmuParadise was just the biggest one.

Desmond: I know many YouTube personalities really established their careers streaming games. I was wondering how you think ROM websites have played a role in the growth of YouTube and streaming sites like Twitch?

MasJ: I know a lot of YouTubers who use EmuParadise. I got a lot of e-mails from them when they were like, “What did you do that for? Come on, man!” Then they of course understood the situation. But I think it’s a big deal for YouTubers to lose access to all of this, because they’ve built their audiences and their content based on [that] and a lot of them talk about how they use ROMs to be able to showcase retro games. That’s the domino effect of the cultural quotient of all of this.

Desmond: I’ve also heard people call ROM websites art preservation– especially your website because you do specialize in retro games. How do you feel about that?

MasJ: I think it’s a legitimate way of looking at it. Unfortunately, the law is not on our side. This is something that we hope to explore with some kind of legal exceptions or something, but there are industry interests that lobby to make copyright extremely restrictive, and it’s unlikely that individuals or preservationists are going to be able to surmount that challenge. So yeah, the challenge is preservation of art. I consider games to be art. Most of the people in our community do. However, I don’t think [that’s] the broader perspective at this point. People consider music, movies, and paintings, and sculpture to be art but video games haven’t quite made it there for some reason.

Desmond: So, you guys have run the website for nearly two decades now. What’s next for you?

MasJ: We’re still in the process of making plans for what’s going to happen next, but we’re hoping to pivot into some kind of retro gaming community, where we can have tournaments and online sessions with each other and also maybe some write-ups about retro video games and stuff like that. There’s a bunch of ideas. And eventually, we’re also looking at maybe bringing back some of the games, with the proper legal permissions, but that’s a very long process and it might take a few years to get around to that.

Desmond: Anything else you wanna say?

MasJ: Game on! Keep playing those retro games. I think they deserve it because there are some really great gems in there, and we shouldn’t forget about them.

The post Are Retro Games History? A Q&A with MasJ of EmuParadise appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

Found Sounds Ep 2: Open Cafe

November 14, 2018 - 10:26am
Marcel Angelo joins Clay Xavier for some drinks at Open Coffee. A cappuccino and an iced coffee later they transformed the cafe into a studio! Who knew coffee could sound so good?

The post Found Sounds Ep 2: Open Cafe appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

No more flavored Juuls? Planet Earth says good riddance.

November 14, 2018 - 9:38am
Even before the FDA started thinking about banning flavored Juuls, one thing was clear: juuling is not only bad for your health, Planet Earth isn’t a big fan either.

The post No more flavored Juuls? Planet Earth says good riddance. appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

ET EP 5: Nova

November 13, 2018 - 1:02pm

The post ET EP 5: Nova appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

Conversion Therapy: Still a Thing, Still Bad

November 13, 2018 - 12:43pm
BEVERLY HILLS, CA – DECEMBER 03: Sam Brinton speaks onstage during The Trevor Project’s 2017 TrevorLIVE LA Gala at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on December 3, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images for The Trevor Project )

Sam Brinton was 11 years old when they were first subjected to conversion therapy. “I remember my therapist telling me horrible lies about me and my sexuality — that I was the only gay person left alive, that I was going to die of HIV and AIDS, that my god didn’t love me.”

Sam was raised by Southern Baptist missionaries, who became physically abusive when Sam came out as gay. So the family sought professional help.

“They were in shock that their child, who they thought was a good, God-fearing child, was sinning in this kind of way,” they said.

Today, Sam is a successful 30-year-old who identifies as bisexual and genderfluid. But at the time, when words did not make Sam straight, “[my therapist would] move to really mean and physically aversive techniques where they put my hands in ice or in heat, or even electricity trying to scare me or physically hurt me out of being gay.”

Like Sam’s family, many people seek conversion therapy for themselves or their children due to religious beliefs, discomfort in their sexuality, or misinformation about the practice. Unfortunately, their demands are met.  

Conversion therapy — sometimes called reparative therapy — is the attempt to turn LGBTQ+ people straight through psychological manipulation and sometimes physical harm. Practices of conversion therapy range from uncomfortable to downright abusive. Conversion therapy takes many forms including exorcisms, electroconvulsive therapy, genitalia transplants, and hypnosis. There is no scientific evidence that conversion therapy works to change people’s sexual orientation.

Despite the faulty science behind it, only 14 states and the District of Columbia have laws banning the practice on minors. According to The Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law, nearly 700,000 American adults have received conversion therapy at some point in their life, 350,000 of them during their adolescence. The practice is especially dangerous to minors who are already in the tumultuous period of trying to figure out who they are. There has been at least one suicide connected to the practice and Sam confirms the risk.

“Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual youth that come from rejecting families, like those that put them through conversion therapy, are 8.4 times as likely to attempt suicide as those that come from accepting families. So I was already basically having a much higher rate of attempting suicide. And that’s true, I attempted suicide many times in my life.”

Organizations like the Alliance for Therapeutic Choice and Scientific Integrity (previously National Association For Research & Therapy of Homosexuality), still offer potential clientele “competent licensed, professional assistance … for persons who experience unwanted homosexual (same-sex) attractions (SSA).” Testimonials of people “cured” by conversion therapy (these testimonials haunt me to this day, read with discretion!) clearly display the shame and trauma that they have been forced to endure.

Sam describes the trauma of conversion therapy in a metaphor: “If you are an adult, you could eat 100 Big Macs in a row, and I wouldn’t be able to stop you. I would tell you that it is really unhealthy … but I can’t stop you from doing it. But if you ever saw a parent force-feeding a child 100 Big Macs, you would be like, ‘that’s wrong! we should stop that!’ That’s what I think of when it comes to conversion therapy. This idea of a child having no choice but to accept something that is not healthy for them isn’t a good idea.”

And that’s what motivates Sam to now work at The Trevor Project as the head of advocacy and government affairs where they “get to represent LGBTQ youth interests… making sure that advocates across the country know how to work to save young LGBT lives…LGBTQ youth need to know that we have people fighting for us.”

The Trevor Project’s 50 Bills 50 States campaign has already passed bills against conversion therapy in nine states in the past two years. There are now 14 states across the country plus the District of Columbia with bills banning conversion therapy for minors.  

Other policy changes are also beginning to shift towards banning the therapy. California Assemblymember Evan Low introduced a bill to ban conversion therapy, classifying it as consumer fraud. Although Assembly Bill 2943 has been shelved for the time-being, Low says the bill would set an important standard. 

“There is nothing wrong with being LGBTQ,” he said in a written statement. “If this bill passes it will…set an example for the rest of the world that this practice of conversion therapy is not only fraudulent, but extremely harmful and should be seen by consumers as a scam.”

He told YR Media “People spend years of their lives and thousands of dollars on these programs only to find that they have wasted their time and money on false promises. The people of the LGBTQ community deserve to be treated equally and therapy isn’t needed to change their sexual orientation.”

Conversion therapy is not a thing of the past. It is still very real and very detrimental for many LGBTQ+ folks today.

“It’s something that people think happened but isn’t happening… We get calls at the Trevor Project every single week from [people who are] experiencing or about to be put into conversion therapy. So we have a lot of work left to do,” Sam says.

But on the bright side, popular culture is exploring the issues conversion therapy raises in the new movies The Miseducation of Cameron Post and Boy Erased, Sam is engaged to be married, and awareness and laws are coming to the forefront of our cultural dialogue.

The post Conversion Therapy: Still a Thing, Still Bad appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

Bay Word of the Day: Cat

November 13, 2018 - 12:00pm

The post Bay Word of the Day: Cat appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

5 Dope LGBTQ Artists

November 12, 2018 - 11:34am

Music has always been a vehicle for self-love in the LGBTQ community, delivering reminders to love oneself no matter what anybody has to say. These artists provide representation for the LGBTQ community in their respective musical genres through their creativity, presence, and experiences. Through their music they open up the floor to a much-needed conversation regarding LGBTQ issues.


Lively synths and synthetic sounds is a signature trademark of SOPHIE, the transgender woman making some of the most bizarre and energetic pop music today. Her style is distinctively hers, equipped with heavy percussion that is chaotic, but full of pop sensibility. She builds on genres such as hip-hop, R&B, and electronic by introducing her percussion-heavy sound to the genre. She’s produced for the likes of Vince Staples, Madonna, Quay Dash, and Charli XCX— artists whose music styles are vastly different from each other, however with SOPHIE’s hand in production, they come together seamlessly.

In 2017, SOPHIE came out as a transgender woman with the song “It’s Okay To Cry.” This song along with the music video was the first time she has used her voice as well as her image in her music. Along with her use of abnormal techniques that include samples that utilize the sounds of plastic and metal as percussion and pitched vocals, her act of coming out welcomes individuality and originality which has always been at the heart of the LGBTQ Pride movement.

Devonte Hynes

Devonté Hynes is the battery that powers Blood Orange, a channel of artistic expression for what matters to him. Since the start Blood Orange in 2011, Devonté Hynes has used Blood Orange as a platform for activism, especially when he uses the project to voice and show visibility on his community. For example, he brings transgender and non-binary models to be the center of his album covers. Not only that, but his 2013 album, Cupid Deluxe, is famed for recounting the struggle of NYC’s LGBTQ community; the song “Uncle ACE” describes the trials NYC’s LGBTQ youth go through. With his music, Devonté Hynes offers a voice that comforts the LGBTQ community.


Sateen is a married lesbian duo making powerful groovy disco jams. The couple consists of Queenie and Exquisite who were came up through New York’s exhilarating nightlife. Their experiences as a queer couple in NYC has significantly influences their unique presence as they bring in drag and “pin-up” looks to express themselves.

One thing to note about their music is that they don’t make it just for the LGBTQ community, while they do sing about queer themes, it’s not limited to that. Their music ultimately surrounds themes of self-love and self-fulfillment that everyone can relate to. It can pick you up on a bad day and make a good day ten times better. These are universal themes that the LGBTQ community has come to embrace, and with Sateen, other communities can embrace along with them.

Yves Tumor

The word “mystery” comes to mind when referring to Yves Tumor, the non-binary artist from Tennessee. Their music brings a sense of liveliness surrounded by fear and noise, which makes Yves’ music resemble a sonic performance. On one hand, it’s calming and ambient, but on the other, fully abrasive with how they intersect ambience with elements of soul and rock.

Along with their music, Yves’ mysterious presence brings upon a cloud of smoke that covers them and makes them hard to identify. Yves’ objection to identify as one or the other, even in their music which fails to fit a box, relates to many members of the LGBTQ community. With that in mind, Yves’ embodies a non-binary approach to music that resonates with people who don’t identify with either/or.

Dizzy Fae

Dizzy Fae’s music is an interesting style as it mixes innovation that crosses with Dizzy’s classically-trained opera background. The up-and-coming R&B singer is upfront about her queer identity and her sexuality. From embracing her femininity, to opening a conversation of what she likes, to even singing about her queer encounters, she owns it fully. She invests these concepts of owning your sexuality and addressing your identity into her music and visuals with songs like “Booty 3000,” and “Her.” These songs also boast a surprising amount of experimentation that brings the sounds of R&B and electronic together like a pattern, weaving the two styles of music smoothly.

The post 5 Dope LGBTQ Artists appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

How I Learned to Love My Own Skin

November 12, 2018 - 10:57am

When I was 10 years old, I spent the weekend at a sleepover with my two cousins. Both were around my age. All the other girls were a few years older than we were. Despite that, I felt comfortable because at least we were all black. The day went well. I had found a way to not make myself too noticeable to the teen girls by staying quiet and with my cousins.

Then my cousins fell asleep. And the tormenting started.

They spent that entire night making fun of my skin. They said I was ugly, comparing me to a burnt cookie. They said they were glad they weren’t as dark as I am. It didn’t matter that we were all black. I tried to go to sleep as a way to escape but couldn’t. They threatened to pour bleach on me if I fell asleep.

But for some reason, I didn’t feel threatened. I felt like the threat. I felt like I had harassed them just by being dark. At 10, I thought that maybe for the rest of my life I would cause people to feel threatened because I was dark skinned. I tried staying out of the sun. I used photo filters to make myself look lighter in pictures.

At a certain point I realized, my actual skin color wasn’t something I could change. Plus, the photo filters looked ridiculous. So I quit using them and started tagging my photos #sunkissed instead.

Today, I look at my skin as if it’s a gold medal—something no one can take away from me or make me regret.

The post How I Learned to Love My Own Skin appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

When Compliments are Micro-aggressions

November 11, 2018 - 8:07am

I often get praised for my intelligence. Even though that sounds like a compliment, sometimes the implication is: you’re smart… For a black girl.

One day, in the car with my mom, she told me “it’s not always a compliment if someone says you’re articulate.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“If you were white, people would assume that you’re smart,” she said, keeping her eyes on the road. After that we sat in an uncomfortable silence.

My parents and I are pretty close, but until that conversation, we hadn’t talked about how people might judge me by the color of my skin.

Since then, I’ve started noticing micro-aggressions everywhere. Like employees following me around a store, or people moving their purses when I sit next to them.

In the 7th grade, a classmate asked me, “why do you look black, but act white?” In the moment, I shrugged my shoulders. But on the inside I was embarrassed and aggravated. I realize that, while it’s hard to speak up, that just means people will keep stereotyping people like me.

So the next time someone asks me that, I’ll be sure to have a better comeback.

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Categories: Blog

Thrifted! Ep 3: Notorious BIG’s “Just Playin”

November 10, 2018 - 2:15pm

Bet you didn’t know Notorious BIG’s “Just Playin” was inspired by James Brown’s “Blues and Pants.”

The post Thrifted! Ep 3: Notorious BIG’s “Just Playin” appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

#GOALS: Olympian Ibtihaj Muhammad

November 9, 2018 - 8:05pm

Muslim-American Olympian Ibtihaj Muhammad shares her nail game and blacklists evil smoked salmon.

You don’t want to mess with badass Ibtihaj Muhammad unless you want to be #humbled by the first Muslim-American woman to wear a hijab while competing for the 2016 Summer Olympics (Bronze with Women’s Sabre Team!).  Merk Nguyen and Nyge Turner talk to Ibtihaj about the need for her “modest” clothing line Louella and the bullsh*t she had to deal with while on the U.S. Olympic team.  Be sure to also check out her memoir — “Proud: My Fight for an Unlikely American Dream”

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Check out the full conversation on YR Media’s Adult ISH podcast (episode 2) and at yradultish.com.

Merk: So I’ve been snooping on your Instagram and girl — what’s your nail game like today?

Ibtihaj: It’s really cute, like milky nude color. I have a simple line on four of my nails — three are vertical, one is horizontal and I totally regret doing the one horizontal.

Nyge: Fencing might not be the first thing that you think about when you think of the Olympics, so how did that become your sport of choice?

Ibtihaj: I discovered it at 12 [while] driving past a local high school with my mom. We saw fencing inside the school cafeteria from the road and my mom is like, “Don’t know what it is, but they’re fully covered.” Women who wear a hijab cover everything with the exception of their face and their hands, so I wear long sleeves and wear pants and I also wear the headscarf. [Previously] in different sports I played, I was always stared at when I went to competitions. But fencing, it was totally different. 

When I put on my mask, no one knew I was black. No one knew I wore a hijab. I thought it was so cool that it was all about: how good can you be on the fencing strip? I have to be honest, I’ve never been in love with the sport. I’m still not in love with the sport. I’m just very competitive and when people told me no, I feel so motivated by that! 

Merk: Real talk for a second. When I’m at the gym and if I’m like “I don’t want to do this,” I straight up think of you because I’m like, “Yo…Ibtihaj did it” and I imagine you grinding and sweating like the Gatorade commercials.

Ibtihaj: Stop it! That is amazing…I swear I’ve always been motivated by my competitors. I remember having night sweats — I’d wake up in the middle of the night and think that like world number one has already gone for a run. So that kind of motivated me to kick it into another gear. So the fact that you in any way, shape, or form feel motivated by me…I love that.

Nyge: Personally, I’m a bit of a fashion guy. I’ve taken a few design classes in college, so when I heard that you had your own clothing line I was pretty shook! So, what’s the story behind Louella?

Ibtihaj: When I was young, I had a really hard time finding modest stuff that was fashionable…If you wanted a long-sleeved dress, you had to buy the spaghetti strap, and a sweater or cardigan to go over it. Then you still had to find a hijab. As a sports ambassador for the U.S. State Department, I want to be modest in front of large audiences and I couldn’t find that affordably. The premise of the company is for all of our items to be fashionable, affordable, and modest. We [also] work with female manufacturers who employ women.

Merk: In your book, there is someone in particular you talk about a lot. It’s your younger sister Faizah…she’s an amazing fencer like yourself and the connection you two have totally reminds me of me and my big sister, Kristy. So what about your sister helped you become who you are today?

Ibtihaj: I wonder if my tight relationship with my bestie sister, Faizah, makes my other siblings jealous…probably. But it was interesting to see my sister six years younger than me turn into like this mama tiger energy when people treated me poorly on the U.S. National Team — intentional exclusion by my teammates, the coaching staff not booking flights, not telling me about team practices.

For me, having my sister with me helped me just navigate that space because I was tired of being sad. My parents think you can pray away sadness and that the answer to everything is prayer. 

I’m a devout Muslim, but praying was not helping me. One of the greatest decisions that I made as an athlete was to ask for help. So, I made my own team and I traveled with my sister. #squadgoals, right? 

Merk: When it comes to looks I say you are FIERCE. So, if I want to rock that jumpsuit Nyge tells me is whack (Nyge: Lies!)…what should I do?

Ibtihaj: Wear it! And forget Nyge…I mean, look it’s always great to have a friend who’s like “Hey girl, maybe not that look,” but if your friend is a hater, [get] new friends for sure and wear that jumpsuit if you feel good in it.

Merk: So the part in your book when the whole team gets poisoning…that evil salmon? Can you describe the meal?

Ibtihaj: We left a training camp in Poland in Warsaw for an Olympic qualifier in Athens. And if I see smoked salmon, you better believe I’m going to get a bunch of it. But when we got to Athens, I was so sick that I swear to God I thought I was going to die, like, on the floor. Believe it or not, I had to compete the next day like nothing had happened and that was my third Olympic qualifier where I won a medal. But to this day, I do not mess with smoked salmon.

Merk: All of that reminds me of what happened right before this…Nyge, I’m so sorry I gotta share…he was throwing up.

Nyge: OMG, nobody needs to know that information…

Ibtihaj: This is your Olympic game, Nygel! Don’t be embarrassed, you sound amazing!

Nyge: My senior producer is dying laughing because I’m in here with a trash can and a huge bottle of water. But I’m pushing through. But Merk, you are out of pocket.

Merk: Ibtihaj, we’re going to miss you because this interview is now over. [But] if you’re ever coming back to New Jersey, I will legit go down to New Jersey and be like, “Yo girl. What’s up?” We can get our nails done together!

Ibtihaj: I’m going to take you up on that because I’m flying up to New York tonight.

Merk: You going to slide into the DM’s?

Ibtihaj: I’m trying to keep it kosher. That sounded not too kosher.

The post #GOALS: Olympian Ibtihaj Muhammad appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

Playlist: Amarte En Spanglish

November 9, 2018 - 7:34pm

This playlist features love songs in Spanish + English, otherwise known as Spanglish. A lot of dream pop/rock, some jazz and r&b, as well as some throwbacks. I particularly love music that mixes languages, telling different musical stories and sounds that couldn’t be conveyed in just one language.

The Marias- Carino

LA-based psychedelic soul in this sugary song, meaning “sweetie” or “affection”.

Chicano Batman – Amor Verde

This is a slightly older Chicano Batman song, from their sophomore album, with characteristics of West Coast psychedelia and alternative Latin Tropicalia.

Ralphi Pagan – No Soy de Ti

Ralfi Pagan was a New York-based singer of Puerto Rican and Cuban salsa, and Latin soul. This is one of his most famous ballads from the 70s.

Cuco – Amor De Siempre (Mariachi Version)

Cuco is an online favorite because of his quirky, sad boy persona. He writes bedroom love songs in Spanglish. Enjoy his new Mariachi version of his ballad “Amor De Siempre”.

Kali Uchis – Flight 22

As many already know, Colombian-American Kali Uchis isn’t just a singer but all around creative being. Flight 22 is on the sweeter side of her newest studio album, “Isolation”.

Jessie Ware – Egoista

Jessie Ware’s “Egoista”, meaning “Selfish”, is fueled by the turmoils of a heartbreaking relationship. Despite being UK born and raised her Spanish is really good!

Nathy Peluso – La Passione

The provocative interdisciplinary artist Nathy Peluso pulls us in with this song, including elements of jazz and r&b with her strong vocals and background in various types of latin music.

Santana Feat. The Product G&B – Maria Maria

This is a classic Spanglish song that needs no further introduction, it will always be a bop and one of the first songs I remember listening to that tied elements of Spanish music and hip hop.  

Juanes Feat. Black Eyed Peas – La Paga 

Another Spanglish throwback.   

Miguel – Caramelo Duro

I’m gonna close it out on a lighter note with this one from Miguel’s latest album featuring the wonderful Kali Uchis.

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Categories: Blog

Shyan’G Feat. Shakon Carbyne and Zay – Vibes

November 9, 2018 - 7:27pm
“Vibes” is the first single off the At the Moment mixtape. Song by Shyan’G featuring Shakon, Carbyne, and Zay. Produced by Marcel Angelo. 

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Categories: Blog

The Youth Vote: Tipping the Balance

November 9, 2018 - 1:00pm

Youth turnout was up and played a key role in all kinds of critical races across the country in this week’s historic midterm elections.

Thirty-one percent of youth (ages 18-29) turned out to vote in the 2018 midterms, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning & Engagement (CIRCLE), a go-to source for research on youth and political life.

That’s a 10 percent increase over the 2014 midterms, based on CIRCLE’s day-after analysis. It appears the social media chatter in the run-up to the election was more than just hype. It reflected action and resolve on the part of the nation’s youngest voting bloc.

The early analysis of CIRCLE’s data suggests that elections as close as the Wisconsin gubernatorial race, where incumbent Scott Walker lost, and the Montana Senate race, where Democrat Jon Tester narrowly held on to his seat, could have been decided by the under-29 set. With races in Florida and Georgia still too close to call days after polls closed, there will be more analysis to do once those results come through on what role young voters played.

The turnout that tipped results didn’t materialize overnight. Campaigns to get out the youth vote from social media giants like Instagram and Snapchat may have played a role. But youth activists attached to a range of causes—from gun violence to abortion rights—have been working tirelessly to make this midterm different.

“I absolutely think the organizing that young people did in 2018, and before that, manifested in youth participation in the midterm election because we saw a large jump in youth turnout, “ CIRCLE Director of Impact Abby Kiesa tells YR Media.

“This type of jump requires sustained work and direct outreach that starts months and months before Election Day, which is what many young people are doing on issues and in communities they care about on a weekly basis.”

CIRCLE’s data reaches back to the midterm of 1994, and the organization estimates “that this is by far the highest level of participation among youth in the last seven midterm elections.” Which is a sure sign that attitudes amongst young voters are quite different at the moment.

“These data estimates represent a huge increase in youth participation and are a testament to the efforts that a diverse group of youth organizers built and sustained in communities and on campuses across the country,” said Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, CIRCLE director in a press release on Wednesday.

The Millenial and Gen Z surge is a good sign for the Democratic Party, with the data-analysis group Data for Progress stating that “young people broke for Democrats by the largest margins since Obama ‘08 — and maybe even more than that.”

One place that saw young people organizing for Democratic candidates was Texas, where concert-level crowds rallied for U.S. Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke.

Gabriela Garza is one organizer whose efforts we profiled before the election.  She’s the 23-year-old president of the University of Texas, Austin chapter of Jolt Initiative, and she’s feeling optimistic about what she and other activists accomplished, even though their candidate didn’t make it over the edge.

“My overwhelming feeling, post-election, is one of hope and of resolve,” said Garza. “At Jolt, we are very optimistic, and very excited about the election results.

“That Beto was able to come so close to beating Cruz means that Texas, which became red just before the cusp of the millennial generation, is now solidly purple. This in itself is the kind of victory that demonstrates what kind of power we are harnessing.”

In Texas, it’s not just the efforts, but a demographics shift that is changing the face of politics there.

“…Texas now has two Latina women in the House. Our victories as grassroots organizers transcend what happens on Election Day. This is a long game because progress doesn’t happen overnight.”

Indeed, political movements have to sustain themselves between elections to be successful, and Data for Progress notes that the real “battle for Gen. Z and Millennials is not between (Democrats) vs (Republicans)” but between those who vote and those who don’t.

One thing is for sure from the results this week: that difference shapes the future.

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Categories: Blog

Escaping the Laughter

November 8, 2018 - 1:37pm

In the first grade, I got my first lesson in what it means to be Asian in this country. Kids gathered around one of my classmates as he did his best impression of a Chinese waiter. “Herro? You wan dumpling?!” I watched as everybody laughed, and despite being very confused, I laughed too, just to be like everyone else. Over time, I learned that my Chinese grandma and aunties would always be reduced to “Dumpling Lady.”

I decided the only way I could fit in was by making people laugh. Every recess was an opportunity to prove that I wasn’t your average unathletic nerd. My self-esteem became solely based on how many laughs I could get. In elementary school, I was loud and wild. And by the time I reached middle school, I had created witty comebacks to defend myself against endless comparisons to Jackie Chan or Bruce Lee.

But as I grew up, the jokes I was forced to brush off became deeper and more damaging.

Every fake accent, every kid doing Asian eyes, every boy who patronized me and made fun of my size made me less proud of who I was. On the days my mom packed leftover fried fish and soy sauce, I acted like I didn’t have home lunches to hide the smell. I would starve myself until I got home, then quickly eat so my mom wouldn’t get mad. I purposefully went slower on my math sheets, and I overcompensated by trying to act like everyone else.

But I couldn’t escape who I was.

In ninth grade, people looking at me from a distance would have thought I was doing a good job fitting in. I would try anything to make people laugh: telling over-exaggerated stories, doing stereotypical accents, and pretending to sleep in class.

But the laughter came with a toll. I had become the type of person I was trying to escape – a one-dimensional caricature of myself. I had become the Jackie Chan character they had reduced me to being, always providing entertainment, but never garnering their respect as a human being, which I had always craved.

Maya Gillam/YR Media

Something had to change, but 10 years of fronting doesn’t go away overnight. I have been trying to allow myself to be multidimensional. I have to remind myself to be honest with who I am and to be proud of the culture that has shaped me. I have to remind myself not to be held back by labels that I had been conditioned to internalize.

Because every single person has the right to be complex, and I have learned not to let anybody take that away from me.

The post Escaping the Laughter appeared first on YR Media.

Categories: Blog

The World Through The Eyes Of A Teen Rooftopper

November 8, 2018 - 12:50pm
What’s it like to secretly scale the tallest buildings for one amazing shot? Take a look for yourself…

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Categories: Blog