Over 300 mostly young people from across the state congregated in Sacramento early August to engage in an intensive four-day summit focused on lobbying and communication workshops. The event concluded with visits to state legislators at the capitol.
As part of the #FreeOurDreams summit, held on the campus of UC Davis, attendees tackled issues of community health, criminal justice, and safety for young people of color and members of the LGBTQ community. Little did I know that the experience would push me to become a different kind of storyteller.
I was there to be a reporter, but at the “Youth Media: From Community Love to Liberation” workshop, I was suddenly invited to be a panelist! I have written countless stories but haven’t spoken to a crowd before — nor did I expect to. That was going to be a challenge.
I worked alongside several folks from Sons & Brothers and YouthWire to prepare for the panel. We explored ways that storytellers can help liberate themselves and their communities, and that many outlets today don’t publish stories about the love and resilience that represent what our respective communities can be about.
Speakers on the panel included Crystal Rivera from We’Ced Youth Media in Merced, Karla Martinez with Coachella Unincorporated and Jarrett M. Ramones from The kNOw in Fresno.
My first thoughts were to back out of this and not be part of the panel but I couldn’t say no. I felt I was invited to Davis and Sacramento for a reason along with hundreds of others. I told myself that because I do have skills and experience as a reporter, I could help other youth reporters and perhaps provide some insight.
But of my year-and-a-half writing stories for VoiceWaves, which would be the best to share?
I decided that I would talk about a video I worked on earlier this year about being homeless in Long Beach during the very wet El Niño season and the trio of homeless persons I interviewed, who told me about how they watch each other’s backs and about how one of them struggles with epileptic seizures.
The following day, as the panel got underway, my nerves were put at ease thanks to a good friend of mine that showed up (shout out to you Isabel!). It felt great sharing my experience with the audience, and about how I learned so much from folks who I otherwise wouldn’t have spoken to.
My talk went pretty smoothly and at the end I felt I did great. I might’ve fumbled my words a bit but I stepped up to the occasion.
I was inspired to hear applause whenever I said something that touched listeners, such as when I stressed the importance of giving “invisible” people a platform to share their stories. People also told me that the video was well done so that encouraged me to continue with more video stories.
I’ve never really spoken at a panel before and I appreciate being put on the spot. The lead up to the panel was actually more nerve wracking than anything, so it’s best to just shrug off the nervousness and step up to the plate. I learned that I have the ability to speak well in front of people if I truly put my mind to it.
Putting myself in a situation where I wasn’t necessarily the most comfortable in forced me to think outside the box, and for a day, become a different kind of storyteller — not with a pen or laptop, but with my own voice.
Til’ next time, it was a hella awesome weekend.