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These Young Artists Are Bringing Their Activism Straight To The UN

Culture
Illustration by Ashley Luka

“Let’s create concrete visions and suggestions for a more peaceful and just world”

Need a good source of activism to get you inspired to take on this week? Today, Get Lit, the leading youth poetry and storytelling organization of Los Angeles, is premiering its handcrafted art zine "United Voices of Peace," which was created around personal and communal ideas of seeking equality and peace for all. With it, the organization is launching a global initiative of the same name and performing their new works during the United Nations 73rd General Assembly today. If you're not one of the lucky few in attendance at the UN this morning, don't worry: The zine will be distributed to hundreds of schools across the country.

“We hope these themes, like using creativity to build peace and letting our voices be heard," Hadas, the creative director of the zine says, "will inspire other young people to join us in the coming years and to create their own creative pathways to peace."

Zine editor Veronika Shulman adds, "I think sometimes we get stuck. It's easy to say world leaders aren't doing enough to end violence, poverty, hunger, bias, and the like. But instead of hating, let's help them." In line with the International Day of Peace, Shulman says that artists are the exact people to whom we should be turning in order to find a catalyst for change. "Let's create concrete visions and suggestions for a more peaceful and just world. Throughout time, whenever politicians, scientists, citizens are stuck, we always turn to the artists, the philosophers, the magic-makers, the shamans, to unlock. Artists and poets are the locksmiths of society."

Get Lit knows the power of poetry is in diversity. "I think the poetry world is not just above average in its intersectionality and attempt to center marginalized voices," Shulman says, "it is, in fact, a sanctuary industry and a thought leader in this action."

NYLON premieres this incredible zine, below, just as Get Lit makes its voice heard at the UN. Flip through and get ready to join the cause. There's no better time than now. 

She considers herself "one of the luckiest kids on the face of the earth"

Dani Okon, NYLON's associate creative director of video, sat down with her great-aunt, May Okon, to talk about their shared experiences—despite vastly different time frames—living as queer women in New York City. Prior to retirement, May was a journalist for the New York Daily News, having first entered the male-dominated workforce when "the boys were all at war." And, of course, she absolutely killed it. Her only regret? "Retiring at 55," she tells Dani, joking, "Who the hell knew I was gonna live to 100?"

Upon retiring, she moved out to the Hamptons with her partner and bought a home. If she had to do it all over, May says "there are a lot of things I wouldn't do," but she still considers herself "one of the luckiest kids on the face of the earth." Get to know May in the video, above.

Check out the other videos in our series where we placed queer people from different generations in conversation with one another:

Rob Smith and Eddie Jarrel Jones
Lauren Morelli and Garcia
Marlene Colburn and Naima Green
Ashlee Marie Preston and Devan Diaz

Produced by: Alexandra Hsie
Camera: Gretta Wilson + Katie Sadler
Edited by: Madeline Stedman

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Here's how they're making sure it doesn't happen

Lauren Morelli, the showrunner and executive producer for the new Netflix show Tales of the City, is fostering a space where multiple queer realities can be shown on-screen. She spoke with one of the cast members, trans actor Garcia (who plays Jake Rodriguez on the show), and, in the video above, they explore why it's wrong to treat queer stories as representative of the entire community. Tokenization is something that they both want to avoid at all costs, and they're on the right track.

Check out the other videos in our series where we placed queer people from different generations in conversation with one another:

Dani and May Okon
Rob Smith and Eddie Jarrel Jones
Naima Green and Marlene Colburn
Ashlee Marie Preston and Devan Diaz

Produced by Alexandra Hsie
Directed by Charlotte Prager
Shot by Gretta Wilson + Charlotte Prager
Edited by Gretta Wilson

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"Nothing is truly a binary"

We put non-binary activist Eddie Jarrel Jones and The Phluid Project founder Rob Smith in conversation with each other, and the two spoke some powerful truths about the continued gendering of products like makeup and clothing. Smith recalls that 30 years ago, the only way that he was able to experience the joys of playing with makeup was to work at a beauty counter. Even today, Jones notes that it's hard for non-binary femmes like them, or even trans women, to get that experience in stores.

In the video above, get a sense of why Smith created a genderless store, and see how important it is for people like Jones to have a space where they don't feel criticized for dressing like they want.

Check out the other videos in our series where we placed queer people from different generations in conversation with one another:

Dani and May Okon
Lauren Morelli and Garcia
Naima Green and Marlene Colburn
Ashlee Marie Preston and Devan Diaz

Produced by Alexandra Hsie
Directed by Charlotte Prager
Shot by Charlotte Prager + Dani Okon
Edited by Gretta Wilson

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We put the two activists in conversation

Marlene Colburn, one of the founders of the Dyke March, and Naima Green, an artist currently working on a project and archive called Pur·suit, which will document queer people of all identities, agree that it's really hard to find lesbian spaces that aren't bars. Just as hard, it seems, is to find lesbian representation that isn't white. In the video above, the two talk about how they are creating space for queer people and what that looks like within two different generations.

Check out the other videos in our series where we placed queer people from different generations in conversation with one another:

Dani and May Okon
Rob Smith and Eddie Jarrel Jones
Lauren Morelli and Garcia
Ashlee Marie Preston and Devan Diaz

Produced by Alexandra Hsie
Directed by Charlotte Prager
Shot by Dani Okon + Charlotte Prager
Edited by Charlotte Prager

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