May Newsletter

May Newsletter

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” -Harriet Tubman
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“Empowerer” Spotlight: 

Somer Messerly and Chuck Nieblas!
This month we are saying goodbye (for now) to our amazing and hard-working BSW practicum students. Somer Messerly will be heading to Arizona to begin her career as a social worker. Somer’s kindness, compassion, and ability to connect with others has been invaluable and will help her thrive in her social work career. Chuck Nieblas is looking forward to having a break and spending more time with his family. Chuck’s friendly demeanor and dedication to encouraging youth to pursue their passion will be greatly missed. Chuck and Somer are both incredible people and were true assets to the EmpowerMT team. Thank you both so much for your hard work for our organization and best wishes on all of your future endeavors! The world is a better place with the two of you in it!

9th Annual Diversity Day Celebration!

This April we celebrated the 9th annual Diversity Day celebration with one of our favorite programs yet! Did you miss it, or want to go back? Below are the highlights from our night! Cheers to another year of celebrating diversity and youth leadership in Montana.

Diversity Day History: 

On April 12, 2010, Empower Montana’s youth leaders launched the Diversity Day Celebration in response to rising controversy and LGBTQ discrimination surrounding the City’s then-proposed anti-discrimination ordinance.  Mayor John Engen officially declared April 12 as Diversity Day in Missoula, and the event was credited for playing a key role in influencing the following day’s landmark City Council vote to extend non-discrimination protection to Missoula’s LGBTQ community. We continue to honor the hard work of the youth that first year by celebrating Diversity Day, a youth-led event, each year in recognition of all that makes our community unique.

Elementary EPIC Project:

This spring, our EPIC groups at Lowell and Hawthorne Elementary used their knowledge and experience with leadership to create a video to share with the community. Sure to make you laugh, and maybe tear up a little, here it is!

Middle School EPIC Project: 

This year’s community action project is a poster campaign called “Break the Box.” Each of us in EPIC have chosen a stereotype that upsets us and made a poster to challenge it. All posters follow the prompt: We don’t believe…, because we know…

All 26 posters now line the walls of each middle school to share with students ans faculty. We are so proud of all of the hard work our EPIC members put into this awesome poster campaign!

Youth Forward Project:

At Diversity Day, our Youth Forward program shared the film project they created called Dear Future Self. This film project was inspired by an excellent film project called Dear 40 Year Old Me from the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance who work hard in their state to support the health and wellbeing of LGBTQ youth.

Our Youth Forward and Be You Crew members spent some time writing and reflecting on what they would want to say to their future selves. While some of our members are more camera shy, we put together this film to share some of their answers.

“Remember Me” Reading: 

Diversity Day is all about honoring and celebrating youth leadership in the face of hardship. Everyone was young once, and yet most of us grow up and begin to invalidate the hardships of those who are now younger. It’s important for us all to remember what our experiences were as young people so that we can celebrate and empower our youth today. Which is why we asked community members to reconnect to their younger selves and share their reflections with us. Nine community members spoke ranging from Professor of History of Rock and Roll Jeff Brandt, to Big Sky Principal Natalie Jaeger, and community leader Ja’ton Simpson. If audience members hadn’t cried already, this mix of humor, grief, and inspiration was sure to get the tears flowing. While we don’t have the video to share yet, MCAT filmed the entire show so we will be sure to secure a copy to watch over and over!

Upcoming Events
Unboxing Gender Teach In
Empower Montana will be partnering with the Flathead Reservation Human Rights Coalition to host a community workshop to deconstruct unhealthy gender boxes. Utilizing interactive activities and clips from The Mask You Live In and Misrepresentation participants will explore the impact of media and stereotypes on the success and well-being of our youth, learn skills for interrupting SOGI (sexual orientation, gender identity) oppression, and set individual, school, and community goals for active allyship across group lines. The workshop will be held Tuesday May 15th from 5-8pm at the Mission Valley United Methodist Church at 70715 US Highway 93, Saint Ignatius, Montana 59824. We hope to see you there! (Click here for the Facebook event)
Indigenous Film Festival
Missoulian Indian Urban Health Center will be hosting a film festival on May 18th-19th at the Missoula Children’s Theater. “This film festival highlights positive messages about identity and connection to culture and seeks to honor the resilience, perseverance, and transcendence that defines what it means to be an AI in 2018 from a foundation of historical and compounding intergenerational trauma. Our festival bears the name En-th-a-eye “Place of the Little Bull Trout” (Salish word for Missoula) Indigenous Film Festival to include the vast diversity of Indigenous experience yet have likewise tie the event to this specific area, this valley, and to honor the people who’s land on which we now live. We will offer a multitude of stories that speak to inter-connection, a sense of cultural validation, and hope.” (Click here for the Facebook event)
News of Interest

Starbucks: No Purchase Needed To Use The RestroomStarbucks Executive Chairman Howard Schultz said Thursday that Starbucks’ bathrooms will now be open to everyone, whether paying customers or not.

“We don’t want to become a public bathroom, but we’re going to make the right decision 100 percent of the time and give people the key,” Schultz said at the Atlantic Council in Washington, D.C. “Because we don’t want anyone at Starbucks to feel as if we are not giving access to you to the bathroom because you are ‘less than.’ We want you to be ‘more than.’ ”

Two black men, business partners Donte Robinson and Rashon Nelson, both 23, were arrested on April 12 as they sat in a Philadelphia Starbucks after not buying anything and asking to use the restroom. (Continue reading here)

Starting With R. Kelly, Spotify Pulls Artists From Playlists For ‘Hateful Conduct’

The music streaming giant Spotify, with 75 million subscribers and 170 million monthly users, announced a new policy this morning regarding music that it believes to contain “hate content.” Alongside the announcement, Spotify also confirmed that one of the first artists to be affected by the policy would be R. Kelly, the R&B singer who has been accused of extensive sexual misconduct dating back nearly two decades, but whose actions have been the subject of renewed focus in the last year. In April, Kelly was condemned by a group of women of color within the Time’s Up movement, who called for labels and streaming services — including Spotify — to cut ties with the singer. (Continue reading here)
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