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Black gay youths share their views
by Amy Wooten
2008-11-01

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Four gay and lesbian youth shared their views on what they consider to be hot topics in hopes of educating the larger community about what it is like growing up young, black and gay on Chicago's South Side.

Four Youth Pride Center ( YPC ) members, ranging in age from 17-21, held the event, titled 'Our View,' at the Lakeview Lutheran Church, 835 W. Addison, on Oct. 9. Modeled after the popular daytime show The View, the youths discussed hot topics, interviewed special guests and invited the audience to discuss issues with them.

The youths—three openly gay men and one lesbian—discussed various issues, such as being out on the city's South Side, people who are on the down low, the growing numbers of youth on Halsted Street and more. They even discussed the proposal for an LGBTQA-friendly Chicago public high school. Three of the four youths disagreed with the creation of such a school, fearing violent attacks and segregation.

Among the guests invited to join the youth at the table were officer Jose Rios ( who serves as the 23rd Police District's LGBT liaison ) , Broadway Youth Center Director Joe Hollendoner and YPC founder Frank Walker.

The youths asked Rios about the high number of youth on Halsted Street and the complaints from the area's business owners and residents.

According to Rios, more youth are flocking to the area than ever before and, as a result, area police are trying to engage the community. Rios told the youth that he doesn't attribute the area's higher crime rate to the youth, and understands where LGBTQ kids are coming from.

'I was a Latino gay youth on Halsted, too,' Rios told them.

Rios said that the high number of youths is causing tension, because one side claims people are afraid to come out of their homes and businesses are losing money while the other side feels that youth are being unfairly targeted and misunderstood. Rios said that area police have to be certain that they are neither too strict nor too lenient when it comes to youth.

'Some concerns the business owners have are valid,' Rios said. 'But one group will make it hard for everyone.'

The youths interviewed Hollendoner as well, who also spoke about the number of youths flocking to the Lakeview neighborhood.

'There are more youth on Halsted than ever,' Hollendoner said. 'But we can choose to look at that as a problem or an opportunity and be excited about that.'

Both Hollendoner and the youths agreed that Halsted does not have much for LGBTQ youth to do that isn't provided by social service agencies.

According to a recent survey of Halsted youth at night, Hollendoner said that youths want social spaces and events afforded to young, straight folks that aren't educational, but are 'fun and sexy.'

Several of the youths on the panel, as well as the audience, noted that there are youths who do not feel comfortable going to the Center on Halsted for its youth services, and prefer to go to other organizations that they feel better speak to them and their needs. Many expressed a desire for more options..

****


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