marks 10 years
by Elliot Owen
Ten years ago, Noah Miller founded outLoud Radio to send stories of LGBTQ youth over the airwaves in response to a gap he had noticed in media representations of queer people. Today, outLoud Radio is a well-known San Francisco-based nonprofit organization that creates regularly accessible first person radio broadcasts created by LGBTQ youth that participate in the organization's variety of programs.
Next week, outLoud's decade of growth will be celebrated at its anniversary gala, Ten Years of Making Waves, at the Brava Theater Center located at 2781 24th Street in San Francisco at 7 p.m. November 14. The event will feature NPR White House correspondent Ari Shapiro in an on-stage discussion with KQED's Scott Shafer and several of outLoud's youth producers.
"This gives us a chance to look back on the impact we've made over this last 10 years," Miller, outLoud's director, said. "It's a feeling of responsibility to teach the power of storytelling not just for the people listening, but for the people telling."
Shapiro was invited to participate in the event because showcasing the relevance of his career to outLoud's youth and supporters seemed like an appropriate and engaging choice, Miller said. Shapiro is the first NPR reporter to become a correspondent before age 30 and has been awarded several journalism prizes in his career.
"[Shapiro] is an accomplished journalist who has covered some of the most important beats there are – the Supreme Court, the White House and the 2012 presidential campaign," Shafer, the openly gay host of KQED's the California Report, told the Bay Area Reporter . "And he's done it as an out gay man. He's a terrific role model for aspiring LGBT journalists."
Shortly after its founding, Miller, 33, realized that outLoud's impact on the youth participants. Some shared that they had written about outLoud in their college entry essays, characterizing their experience with the organization as the most important thing they had done in their lives. Others expressed that participating in outLoud provided them with the opportunity to explore their identities and to define themselves.
DJ Thompkins-Michael, a 23-year-old gay participant, is one of the youth members who has been affected by outLoud. He is part of the intergenerational storytelling project, a three-month program that brings together LGBTQ elders and youth to swap queer stories with each other and share them on air.
"OutLoud gives LGBTQ youth and older people a voice that sometimes we don't have," said Thompkins-Michael. "It's life changing and humbling to listen to someone else's story. It makes you appreciate your life, the things that you have."
Cedar Lay, a 20-year-old gay participant, echoed Thompkins-Michael's sentiment. Lay was kicked out of his Pennsylvania home in early 2012 for being gay. He relocated to San Francisco four months ago after spending six months on the streets in Atlanta.
"When you're homeless you think you don't matter," Lay said. "You don't have a voice. It's awesome that outLoud Radio gives us a chance to use our voices and to learn from other voices, too. I feel more powerful because of outLoud."
Youth from all over the Bay Area have joined the ranks of outLoud. Once enrolled in a program, participants have the opportunity to earn stipends through their internship work. OutLoud Radio is sponsored by Lavender Youth Recreation and Information Center but is funded by individual donations with help from the Horizons Foundation and the San Francisco Foundation. This year, outLoud hopes to function within a budget of $80,000, Miller said.
Within the next 10 years, Miller hopes to secure a designated space for the organization, expand programming and audience, and strengthen partnerships with local media platforms and radio stations like StoryCorps, the Public Radio Exchange, and KQED.
"My dream for us is to one day have our own studios," Miller said. "Also, I see us as working with more youth, reaching more people through the Internet, shifting our focus from teaching young people the technical skills of media production to thinking about how to craft a story that will engage and move people through podcasts and YouTube, changing more hearts and minds."
Tickets for next week's event are $25 general admission or $100 for a VIP reception and can be purchased online by visiting http://gala.outloudradio.org/.