Cover Story
Teens in Print's First Youth Conference
Photo by Michael Rivera
On Saturday, September 30, through the generosity of the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, we at WriteBoston hosted our first ever youth conference, Looking Back & Looking Forward: Writing to Defend Democracy. This student-led and student-centered event was held at the Bruce C. Bolling Building in Roxbury for approximately 50 Boston teenagers, educators, parents and community members. The full-day event consisted of immersive student-led workshops, participatory art & writing projects, “pop-up magazine” performances by teens, and a resource fair of community partners.  In the words of WriteBoston executive director Sarah Poulter, the event was seized by teens as an opportunity to “write their own narrative, speak back to power.” 

We have therefore dedicated this edition of the Teens in Print newspaper to you, conference-goers—together, you wrote hundreds of stories on journals, sticky notes, walls, Snapchat, and papier-mache globes and chairs. You’ll find snippets of that writing sprinkled throughout this spread, some by seasoned TiP journalists, and some from newcomers who were inspired by the day’s events. In publishing this wide array of writing, we aim to remind all of you once again that every voice matters—that no matter your age, race, sexual orientation, or writing experience, it’s crucial that you #writeyourtruth. 
 
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Have you ever seen a member of the LGBTQ community walking down the street and someone start shouting at them or referencing the Bible, simply because they are wearing an article of clothing that gave their gender or sexuality away? This type of situation has happened to me and to others in our community. I’ve had strangers yell at me. I’ve had students in my school tell me there are only two genders. I’ve had family tell me to pick a side. It doesn’t help that our administration is setting an example that it is acceptable to disrespect the LGBTQ community.  It’s not acceptable, because we are humans and have feelings too.  
Fortunately, there are people in power setting great examples of how to treat members of the LGBTQ community equally. For example, Governor Jerry Brown of California signed a LGBTQ equality bill, which allows non-binary people to use a non-binary gender marker ID. This warms my heart, because I have a close friend who is non-binary, and sometimes they’re asked to show proof of their gender or asked what kind of genitalia they have. 
I identify as a genderfluid lesbian. I have been misgendered or have had my sexuality denied countless times by family members or classmates. Now I’m afraid to show my body, thinking it will not match the female gender norm. This has the effect of making me feel socially awkward. I asked Brittany Thomas, the radio station manager at ZUMIX in East Boston, what she hoped to see in the future for the LGBTQ community: “What I hope to see might be that we don't need to categorize ourselves or attach ourselves to a label. As a society, we still haven't found the freedom to be what we choose, our whole selves.” I chose to interview Brittany because she a very accepting person when it comes to her students. 
I also talked to a teacher at my school, who goes by the name Mr. E., asking if he knew that Massachusetts was the first state to legalize same-sex marriage: “I did actually. In college, I had two majors—criminal justice and ethnic gender studies—and I got to learn a lot about the world around us and Massachusetts in general, too. It’s kinda cool that Massachusetts is one of those states that is very progressive and makes changes quick.” Mr. E is an LGBTQ ally and runs the Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA) at my school. 

The LGBTQ community faces both negitive and positive feedback. If you are facing discrimination, know you are not fighting the battle alone. There are many fighting alongside you, and everything will soon get better. Know you’re strong, and never back down! 
 
     
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AFH Photo//Janna Mach
Imagine you were in Mexico City when the earthquake happened on September 19: Perhaps you are in school when, suddenly, you feel the ground moving.  Then you hear a building falling.  Your friends and your teacher are frightened and screaming.  When you go outside, you see a building collapsed on the ground with victims scattered around it. You hear the ambulance sirens coming near you. You wonder if your family is safe and if you are going to be safe. You run to your house, and when you get there, you see your home destroyed, with a body in front of the building. It is your neighbor.  
 
The earthquake in Mexico City was a terrible tragedy that killed more than 300 people. It was a 7.1 magnitude earthquake. Many of the people killed were children who were in their school buildings when the quake hit. Many students now are still out of school because their schools were destroyed or damaged, and they lost their homes too. 
32 years ago, a similar earthquake happened in Mexico City, a fact that I learned from my mother, who lived there at the time. 
 “My brother was 6 years old, and when I woke up, I thought it was my brother jumping on the bed. But it was the earthquake,” my mother recalled.  
 She was 10 years old when the first earthquake hit, and she too experienced missing school for a long period of time because of the natural disaster. “When I noticed it was an earthquake, I saw my mom terrified and my brother crying, so I went up to my mom and started to hug her. We prayed together,” she said. 
 Mariel Garcia Montes is a Boston Public School student and a volunteer at ZUMIX, a nonprofit organization that offers afterschool music programming to youth. She grew up in Mexico City and has friends and family who were affected by the earthquake. 
 “No one [in my family] got injured, thankfully, but I know some people that got injured or killed, sadly,” she said. “Things are not the same because many businesses got destroyed and a lot of people in Mexico now have to live in hotels.”   
Many of Mexico City’s precious places were destroyed by the earthquake, including some of Montes’ friends’ homes. “Thankfully, none of the buildings I used to live in and visit [were destroyed], but many of my friends got hit in the most worst spots and now they are homeless sadly.” I wanted to know how she would feel if she was in the shoes of her friends who had experienced the quake. 
 “It would feel like a moment of terror,” she said. “Seeing all of the buildings destroyed would be scary. Also many people thought it was the end for them and were scared of death.”   
Both my mother and Montes were faced with  a very hard task—knowing that their family was in danger. 
 “During [this most recent] earthquake, I felt really sad and terrified and prayed for my family’s safety,” said my mother.  About a month after the disaster, she went to Mexico to bring supplies to my family. Her trip brought Mexico City one step closer to recovery. 
 
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AFH Photo//Yvonne Chen
The crowd at the Billboard Music Awards began fan-chanting the band members’ names as BTS took the stage: “KIM NAMJOON! KIM SEOKJIN! MIN YOONGI! JUNG HOSEOK! PARK JIMIN! KIM TAEHYUNG! JEON JUNGKOOK! BTS!”  
BTS had just broken Justin Bieber’s six-year winning streak for Top Social Artist (a people’s choice award), becoming the first Korean pop group to ever win the title. In just five years, BTS became a worldwide sensation and a major presence in the western music scene.  Despite this popularity, some are still wondering: “Who is BTS, and why have they become so popular all around the world?” 
BTS is made up of seven members: RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V, and Jungkook. They debuted on June 13, 2013 with their unconventional hip-hop song “No More Dream.” The group also produces, composes and writes their lyrics themselves, something that few South Korean pop idols do.   
According to a recent article on Vulture, BTS has become famous in the U.S. because of the funny and cute pictures and videos they post on their Youtube channel and Twitter. Thanks to their fanbase, the BTS A.R.M.Y. (Adorable Representative MC for Youth), they have over 10 million followers on Twitter and over a billion combined views on their music videos. In November, they made their American debut with performances on “The Ellen Show,” “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” “The Late Late Show with James Corden,” and the American Music Awards. BTS has shown that there are no boundaries in music, and that it is possible to have a massive fandom in a English-speaking country.  
 
Here are the top three reasons you should listen to BTS. 
 
1. They incorporate serious issues into their music. 
“Disobey the hell-like society...Become the subject of your own life, away from suppression.” These are BTS’s lyrics from their song “No More Dream.” Like most of their songs, “No More Dream” is about not following society’s expectations and following your dreams. This is unlike many American pop songs that deliver unhealthy messages about clubbing and drugs. “They talk about more real things and they're a little bit more artistic than American pop music,” said 14-year-old Natalie Boyd, a new A.R.M.Y. member.  
 
2. They are fun to follow. 
In addition to making music, BTS posts short videos that show off their personalities. Their Youtube videos are known as BANGTAN BOMBS. They also post vlogs, lip syncs, and backstage glimpses. “English time with BTS,” fan-made compilations of clips of the BTS members speaking English, is also a popular video series. “I finally looked up "English Time with BTS" and that's what sparked my curiosity,” said Ms. Chu, a Donald McKay School, City Year Corps member. “Then I saw one BANGTAN BOMB, then that started the spiral.” BTS makes sure they are updating small clips to bring themselves even closer to their fans.  
 
3. They partner with UNICEF to help young people. 
After releasing their “Love Yourself: Her” album, BTS announced on October 31, 2017 that they would partner with UNICEF on a new project called LOVE MYSELF.  It’s an anti-violence campaign that focuses on stopping sexual assault and school and domestic violence against young people.  According to Billboard,  BTS will be donating just under $450,000 to the campaign over the next two years, and will also donate 3 percent of their “Love Yourself” album sales income.  


These are three of the million reasons why you should check BTS out. I highly recommend starting out with their music videos for “Blood Sweat and Tears” and “I NEED U”—the song that started everything for BTS. If you want to get to know the BTS members even better, introductions to all seven members can be found on Squishy Min Yoongi’s Youtube channel. Through their music and their online presence, BTS connect with people around the world. 
 
 
3 MORE FUN FACTS ABOUT BTS
 
1.  BTS stands for four things: Bangtan Sonyeondan, Bangtan Boys, Bulletproof Boy Scouts, and their recent add, Beyond The Scene.  
 
2. On their previous album “WINGS,” all seven members composed solo songs, which were included on the album. 
 
3. RM has an IQ of 148 and was in the top 1 percent of the nation preparatory university entrance exams for language, math, foreign language and social studies in South Korea.  
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AFH Photo//Aijanah Sanford
Music and the arts have greatly impacted my life. When I was younger, I was bullied, and that destroyed my self-esteem and made me angry. Listening to music from a diverse range of bands and artists—Eminem, Timbaland, Linkin Park, Nickelback—eased the tension I felt.  
 I wouldn’t have gotten into the arts were it not for my music teacher, who taught me to practice on a drum set and pushed me to do what makes me feel good about myself.  Since then, I’ve been constantly listening to music and practicing my craft. The artistic interests in my life, like drawing, drumming and dancing, have given me an outlet and purpose. 
I wanted to hear how art has been a part of others’ lives, so I talked to two local artists: Rene Dongo, the ZUMIX Radio Program Coordinator, and Kashus, a singer with me in the Boston Children’s Choir.  
 
How did you first get into music? 
Rene: I got into music because I like to dance. As a child, it was very fun to move around, and it's more fun when there's actual music playing, so my parents would play music for us— disco, salsa, ballads, anything. I would just dance around, and it was kind of something that was appreciated by my family. I think that was something that I liked about it, because it brought a lot of joy to my family. We all danced around, and it was something that was generally agreed upon as something that was really good to do.  
Kashus: I've always been around music my whole life. Both my parents play a lot of music—hip hop, rock, alternative—so I've always been involved with music.  Ever since I was young, I loved singing. I was singing before I was talking. I just came out the womb singing. 
 
How has music impacted your life? 
Rene: I think art changes everything when you’re a kid. Especially when I was a teenager, I feel like I was able to see a lot of art that made me think about how you could have power with it.  Like when I watched a film and was like “Oh my God! I'm really super excited for this character,” I realized that was important. So talking about how much I appreciated art turned into, “Why can't I make art too?” 
Kashus: Music is...what gets me up in the morning. If I feel unmotivated or depressed, music is always there to give me a little pick-me-up. I feel like music has made me a better person, because it inspires me to do art—to sing and to create music, poetry and writing. 
 
Why do you think music is beneficial to people? 
Rene: If music didn't exist, I feel like people would implode. I don’t know how people could contain themselves. People are always doing bass beats and kind of need music to let off steam. I think that helps people be a little free. Without music, can you imagine the world being super silent? I feel like music allows people to get on a different level of communicating with each other. You feel it. 
Kashus: I don't know a single person who doesn't love music. There's so many different kinds of music that can relate to so many types of people. It's such a beautiful thing. 
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