Online Workshop:  Using Media For Social Justice

In an unprecedented partnership between two educational organizations that believe student led classrooms are crucial in actively engaging students using a social-emotional learning approach, Bank Street College of Education and Scenarios USA have collaborated to present a four week online workshop titled: Using Media for Social Justice. Beginning February 24-March 20, 2015, this workshop will feature Scenarios USA films, curricula, activities, and utilize Bank Street’s world renowned online learning environment for a dynamic course for educators! Successful completion of the course results in 2 CEUs for participants.bankstreet finalFINAL copy


Registration instructions are below:

2. click register online at center of page
3. find #24 “Using Media for Social Justice”
4. click “enroll” the blue button to the right of the workshop with the price
5. go to the top of the page and click “checkout”
6. select “i will pay the total” from the drop down menu below the grid
7. to get a discounted fee of $275, type in the coupon code “susa1″ and click “add” (late fee will be waived)
8. complete the information requested (i.e. address, name)
9. click “continue”
10. complete information requested (i.e. address, name, payment)
11. click “continue”
12. You are registered!

It’s a New Year and We Have a New Look

Illustration by Vin Ganapathy

Last year was a big, ugly year. We felt angry that the deaths of black people went unpunished, that survivors of sexual violence were told they were lying, or worse, didn’t matter. Consenting people were told time and again that who and how they loved was disgusting. It was a year that forced us to realize that, for all the “progress” we’ve made, we maybe haven’t gotten all that far. We went to theaters to see a movie about events that happened fifty years ago and saw something that looked eerily relevant.

As we re-launch our new streamlined website with a focus on narrative voices, art and film for, by and about underrepresented youth in America, we bear in mind the struggle for social justice endured last year, but we also move forward with the next year in front of us. And we shine the focus on young people, because they are the ones who know what’s happening first, who are the changemakers, and who continue to fight the decades-old fight for social justice in new and unprecedented ways: harnessing the power of countless voices to help Nicole Maines win her fight against her school system or building movements like #blacklivesmatter and got people to listen.

But if there’s nothing else that 2014 taught us, it’s that the fight for equal rights is constant, complicated and nuanced with individual stories and struggles. It’s part of every day and every part of our lives. It’s calling out people you love for saying “that’s so gay”. It’s asking why mainstream media continues to ignore the notion of fully-realized characters of color, and why universities aren’t doing more about on-campus sexual assault.

So as we look forward into 2015 and beyond, we want to make the new a space where we’re going to keep talking. That’s what we do. We amplify youth voices, we fight for social justice, we make movies, and we keep talking. And we’re going to hear from all kinds of people within that dialog—filmmakers, writers, millennials (in all their history-making diversity as a generation)—and, of course, from young people. Welcome, have a look, stick around and stay tuned.

Through a Different Lens: This is How I See Me.

Throughout December, we introduced you to 3 remarkable teenagers. They shared who they are, they told stories about feeling invisible, and they spoke of the need to quiet the noise around them.

At Scenarios, our work creates a space for young people to be supported as they figure out who they are. We do our work in schools, out of schools and online. And when the young people are ready to speak and to lead, we give them the space to do so — loudly and authentically.


In 2015, Scenarios continues to listen and learn from young people with these featured projects:

STORIES – Our new website will be the space for millennials and influencers to be who they are and to share their vision. It will be lived, not told. Experienced, not observed. Site launches in February.

FILM – 3 youth-written, Hollywood-produced films on issues teens define as critical to their world are in production and will premiere on TV, online and on mobile devices together with youth-led advocacy campaigns. Films premiere in May.

EDUCATION – Our standards-based and arts-infused curriculum will be build around the 3 films we’re making now with teens. Our education cycle will roll into schools in Fall, 2015.

Make your 2014 contribution to Scenarios by December 31st and NBCUniversal and an anonymous donor will match your 100% tax deductible gift, dollar-for-dollar. Your donation matters.

Thank you for being our partner in education and promoting youth voice.

Here’s to a productive, transformative, healthy 2015,


Through a Different Lens: Morriah

This is how you see me:
Walking down the streets of New York, people see me and forget me. Strangers see a girl who is tall and has short brown hair, brown skin, and is a little bit curvy and maybe depending on what I’m wearing, people judge my social class too.


Morriah Lisowksi, 17, Brooklyn, NY

This is how I see me:
I fight for what I stand for and stand by what I think is right. I’m a girl, and I’m strong, my appearance accounts for a small percentage of who I am.



In 2015, our three new youth-written films will become part of the next Scenarios curriculum, amplifying their messages and helping hundreds of thousands of young people to see their lives through a different lens.


Until December 31st, NBCUniversal and an anonymous donor will match your 100% tax deductible gift to Scenarios, dollar-for-dollar. Your donation matters.

Through A Different Lens: Fatimata

Fatimata Sylla, 17, Bronx, NY      
This is how you see me:
The world sees me as a happy and energetic, but reserved girl. The world sees me as someone who is shy.

This is how I see me:

I see myself as someone who is strong. After my father was killed we moved to the United States from our home of Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Even though I miss him, as the oldest child, I stay strong for my mother and my brothers.


 Support Scenarios Youth Programs Here.


Fatimata participated in the Scenarios curriculum about Place & Power in her high school English class, and is now part of the Scenarios Media Corps, a group of youth working to create a digital campaign for our NYC film that addresses intimate partner violence. At Scenarios, we work side by side with young people to provide them with the analytical skills to connect knowledge with their lived experiences and the world around them. This holiday season, support the perspectives of young people like Fatimata by bringing Scenarios’ films and curricula to classrooms across the country.


Until December 31st, NBCUniversal and an anonymous donor will match your 100% tax deductible gift to Scenarios, dollar-for-dollar. Your donation matters. 

Scenarios USA Roundup of the 10 Most Important Reads on Ferguson

Last night a grand jury decided there will be no trial for Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed Mike Brown, the unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, MO. In the 108 days since Brown was killed, too many of the news reports have centered around vilifying Brown and the community of demonstrators who have dared to demand justice for the unnecessary taking of black life by police. News outlets have prioritized looting over coverage of peaceful protests, Brown’s past over his once possible future. By demonizing black bodies and black communities, news coverage continues the dangerous narrative that contributed to Brown’s death, and the taking of black lives across the country.

‘Justice’ in Ferguson: The politics of the protests

Despite this, there are those who have managed to report on Brown’s death while honoring his humanity. These are the pieces that have impacted us at Scenarios and we encourage you to read.

Face it, blacks. Michael Brown let you down.

      By Dexter Thomas, Jr

“Because we know that it’s common knowledge that white killers get treated like little lost lambs, while black victims are immediately demonized. Hell, there are now even listicles about this sort of thing. But we also know that any small flaw, any trace of humanity, will ruin the whole thing. That people, too many people, will be positively giddy at the sight of our blood.”

Ferguson: Injustice Still Hurts When You See It Coming

      By Kara Brown

“We knew many would care more about the destruction of property and inanimate objects than the destruction of black people’s sense of safety in this country. Still, it was hard not to be taken aback by the downright comical degree to which CNN lamented over a burned pizza chain instead of the dejection of a black community.”

      By Ta-Nehisi Coates

“Among the many relevant facts for any African-American negotiating their relationship with the police the following stands out: The police departments of America are endowed by the state with dominion over your body. This summer in Ferguson and Staten Island we have seen that dominion employed to the maximum ends—destruction of the body. This is neither new nor extraordinary. It does not matter if the destruction of your body was an overreaction. It does not matter if the destruction of your body resulted from a misunderstanding. It does not matter if the destruction of your body springs from foolish policy. Sell cigarettes without proper authority and your body can be destroyed. Resent the people trying to entrap your body and it can be be destroyed. Protect the home of your mother and your body can be destroyed. Visit the home of your young daughter and your body will be destroyed. The destroyers of your body will rarely be held accountable. Mostly they will receive pensions.” 

Things to Stop Being Distracted by When a Black Person Gets Murdered by the Police

      By Mia McKenzie

“Talking to people on Twitter about Mike Brown and what’s happening in Ferguson right now, I’ve noticed (again) how easily folks get distracted when Black people are murdered by the police. It seems as though every detail is more interesting, more important, more significant—including looting of a Walmart in Ferguson, which a local Fox news station focused its entire coverage on—than the actual life that was taken by police.” 

Ferguson is an occupation in plain sight and words aren’t enough to change that

      By Roxane Gay

“In truth, the media rarely seems well equipped to write about tragedy and trauma ethically, particularly when race is involved. It does not know how to report on Ferguson’s grief and anger without resorting to the most facile – and often most damaging – language that only perpetuates the ever-present racial divide in this country.” 

Mike Brown Dies, A Generation Comes Alive

      By Roland Martin

“The fight for a fair justice system has gone far beyond Ferguson. We see men and women of various backgrounds coming together to demand justice …. They are marching, protesting, organizing, registering voters, running candidates for office, training up the next generation of civil-rights lawyers. They are largely young people who have decided that, in the words of Black Freedom Movement leader Fannie Lou Hamer, they are ‘sick and tired of being sick and tired.’” 

Ferguson isn’t about black rage against cops. It’s white rage against progress.

      By Carol Anderson

“A little more than half a century after Brown, the election of Obama gave hope to the country and the world that a new racial climate had emerged in America, or that it would. But such audacious hopes would be short-lived. A rash of voter-suppression legislation, a series of unfathomable Supreme Court decisions, the rise of stand-your-ground laws and continuing police brutality make clear that Obama’s election and reelection have unleashed yet another wave of fear and anger.”

Officer Wilson’s story is unbelievable. Literally.

      By Ezra Klein

So Brown is punching inside the car. Wilson is scrambling to deflect the blows, to protect his face, to regain control of the situation. And then Brown stops, turns to his left, says to his friend, “Here, hold these,” and hands him the cigarillos stolen from Ferguson Market. Then he turns back to Wilson and, with his left hand now freed from holding the contraband goods, throws a haymaker at Wilson. 

How to Deal with Friends’ Racist Reactions to Ferguson

      By Jenee Desmond-Harris

“But here’s what Facebook comments are good for: revealing data about whether you want your ‘friends’ to be your friends any longer. That is, of course, if you believe, as I do, that the way someone responds to other people’s pain and mistreatment—including the systemic mistreatment of entire groups of people—is a perfectly fine way to decide whether he or she is someone you like or want to continue to interact with.”

Get on the Bus: Inside the Black Life Matters ‘Freedom Ride’ to Ferguson

      By Akiba Solomon

“Later on, the young St. Louisan sitting next to me starts weeping. I know she goes by @Nettaaaaaaaa on Twitter and that she has more than 13,000 followers, but I can’t bring myself to interrupt her tears to get her full name or ask her age. Along with two friends she stands up and tells us how they’ve been protesting since the beginning and that they are exhausted. She also informs us that an out-of-towner (who turns out to be an ex-pimp named Tariq Nasheed) has been tearing her protest work apart on Twitter. She and her friends tell us that they’re thankful that we’re there but feel possessive of their movement. They urge us to keep Ferguson and Michael Brown at the center, a sentiment I hear from local people throughout the trip.”

3 Amazing Films- Coming Soon!

It’s finally happening! 

You’ve waited patiently to hear about who won Scenarios’ REAL DEAL contests, who’s directing the films and what’s going on.  At long last, the wait is over!  We have three amazing young writers and three brilliant directors turning their stories into short films.  Please join us in person or follow us on Facebook and Twitter for behind the scenes and on set exclusives, sneak previews of post production and finally, to see the films at their world premiere in 2015!


Meet the writer: Janaya Greene wrote Veracity during her senior year of high school while attending Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy in South Side Chicago. During this time the debate of legalizing gay marriage was at its height and many states were pushing for its legality. After many debates among friends, family and classmates, Janaya realized that the issue was not, “Is being gay right or wrong?” but rather “How do humans, gay or straight, deserve to be treated?”  With support from her film study teacher, Mr. Eugene Hazzard, and classmates, she proceeded to write Veracity, a story about an African-American girl named Olivia J. Brownstein, who gains the courage to tell her family and friends that she is a lesbian. The response she gets is not what she expected from those she loved most. Veracity explores the taboo of being gay in the African-American community.

Seith Mann

Meet the Director: Seith Mann is a Morehouse College alumnus and a graduate of the Grad Film Program at New York University. His thesis film, five deep breaths, premiered at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival, won Best Narrative Short at the 2003 IFP Los Angeles Finl Festival and 1st Significance at the 2003 New York University First Run Festival. Seith won the Gordon Parks Award for Emerging African-American Filmmakers in the Best Directing Category at the IFP/New York Market. Seith also received the Emerging Narrative Award, the Gordon Parks Award for Screenwriting and the Richard Vague Film Production Fund Award for his feature screenplay, Come Sunday. To date, Seith has directed over thirty episodes of television including The WireGrey’s AnatomyHeroesBrotherhoodFriday Night LightsElementaryCalifornicationNurse JackieHomelandRectify and the Walking Dead. He has been nominated for a DGA Award, five NAACP Image Awards and won a NAACP Image Award for Directing for his episode of Friday Night Lights.


Meet the writer: Skyler Edge, a transgender male, wrote the story House, Not Home in his sophomore year at Facing History New Tech High School in Cleveland, OH. The story was born from his fears of coming out to his classmates as transgender after only a year of being out to family and friends. Out of his fear of rejection and violence, Skyler came up with the story of Terran, who is gender variant and does not conform to male nor female pronouns. Skyler wrote his story in hopes of bringing more visibility to transgender issues.

Meet the Director: Joshua Butler is a prolific film and television director whose recent work includes FOX’s The Following  starring Kevin Bacon, Pretty Little Liars for ABC Family, Crisis for NBC, Reckless for CBS, and Matador for Robert Rodriguez and the El Rey Network. Joshua directed the award-winning feature VLOG for Twisted Pictures and the producers of SAWBeer Money for USA Network, Deathlands for SyFy Channel, Saint Sinner for writer-producer Clive Barker, and the Christmas movie Prancer Returns for Raffaella De Laurentiis. He has just completed the Random Bench-produced short film Doghouse, starring Michael Maize and Erin Daniels. In addition to working with Scenarios USA this fall, Joshua will be directing Joe Carnahan’s new NBC thriller, State of Affairs, starring Katherine Heigl, and his 10th episode of CW’s The Vampire Diaries.

New York City

IMG_9942Meet the writer: Nialani Pringle, is a rising senior at Brooklyn Collaborative High School. Pringle’s film, Aleah, tells the story of a 17-year-old girl living in East New York, Brooklyn. Aleah, like many young girls, has hopes and dreams, though her everyday reality revolves around a tumultuous relationship with her boyfriend, an unplanned pregnancy and few places to turn. The story is based on Pringle’s life, whose own mother is a domestic abuse survivor and whose father was killed in Linden Plaza a year after she was born.  When asked why she chose to write this script, Pringle said, “My story shows that a person’s physical and emotional place can make a simple situation ten times worse. Aleah is a pregnant teenage girl in a bad neighborhood with absolutely no power. This was part of [my mother’s] reality and continues to be the reality for many women.” Aleah, was shot in the Linden Plaza Apartments of East New York.


Laurie Collyer

Meet the Director: Laurie Collyer premiered her first film at the Sundance Film Festival, a feature documentary  entitled,  Nuyorican Dream.  Nuyorican Dream had its broadcast premiere later that year on HBO/Cinemax.  The documentary earned Collyer a DGA nomination and won multiple prizes at international film festivals.  Her second film, narrative feature, Sherrybaby, also premiered at Sundance and earned lead actress Maggie Gyllenhaal a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama. Collyer participated in the Sundance Filmmakers’ Lab and the Residence du Festival de Cannes to develop Sherrybaby.  In 2009, Collyer received a Cinereach grant to develop the script for Sunlight Jr., Collyer’s most recent film which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival last year.  Sunlight Jr., features Naomi Watts and Matt Dillon as down and out lovers, wrestling with pregnancy and homelessness.  Most recently, Collyer was hired by LD Productions to write a pilot based on the book, Brothel: Mustang Ranch and its Women, with partner Annie Marter.

Help Scenarios Redefine Place and Power in Chicago!

Scenarios USA has expanded our REAL DEAL program to Chicago schools.  Beginning this Fall, 39 dedicated educators in 9 public high schools are implementing the Scenarios curriculum addressing Place and Power.

Our excitement doesn’t stop there.  Today – Right Now – we’re launching our first ever Indiegogo Campaign to fund the Chicago REAL DEAL film.  REAL DEAL films are written by students as the final assignment of our curriculum and are made by some of your favorite Hollywood talents like Doug Liman (Bourne Identity), David Frankel (Devil Wears Prada), and Gina Prince- Bythewood (Love and Basketball).

Here’s what will happen: Nearly 1,000 Chicago students will submit their stories about place and power to our contest. (This theme is especially potent for the young people of Chicago who live in a city plagued by an epidemic of youth violence and immense cultural segregation.) One submission from Chicago will be selected to be turned into a REAL DEAL film.  The winning writer will be partnered with an acclaimed Hollywood director, shoot their story in their Chicago neighborhood with a professional crew, and bring their film to a local and national audience of 20 million!

We’ve been told that for teenagers to learn, you must talk to them.  But at Scenarios, we do something just as important as talking.  We listen.  That’s the mandate we began with when we started the organization 15 years ago.

As described by Scenarios REAL DEAL student, Terrance Ortiz, “Without someone showing you what’s possible, you don’t know what you can contribute to the world. When doors open, you can surprise yourself, and others.”

Help us open new doors – doors that are safe for young people to walk through, where, on the other side, they can be heard.

Please visit our Indiegogo page. watch our video, DONATE and HELP to make a film from Chicago.  This is more than a film, though – this is a chance to grow the creative spark in the teenagers we work with, many of whom had long stopped considering their own futures as bright or promising.

We’re honored to be invited into Chicago for this school year, and we’re thrilled to have you join us at this exciting start of our journey.  Thank you for visiting the Indiegogo page.


Maura Minsky
Executive Director/Co-Founder

P.S.  Please share our current Facebook Indiegogo Update on your Wall!chicago scenarios banner

Announcing the 2013-14 REAL DEAL Teacher Workshops, Curriculum and Contest

Love. Money. Family. Friendship. Power. Violence.

Do your students think and talk about these issues? Do your students love watching movies?

Are you looking for interactive, engaging, Common Core-aligned activities that will get even your most reluctant students thinking critically and writing creatively about sexual health and social justice issues?

Are you interested in exploring how the arts can take critical thinking to a whole new level?

Do you aim to create a safe space for your students to build their social and emotional competencies?


Cleveland-WorkshopScenarios USA’s professional development workshops, for all educators grades 6-12, where we tackle these questions and more. These workshops are for educators who teach in our three REAL DEAL regions: New York City, Cleveland and Chicago.

Every teacher who attends our workshops will receive a free REAL DEAL curriculum and the new Scenarios USA movies, which are written by teens for teens.

Workshop participants will also learn about the 2013-14 REAL DEAL contest, where student winners are partnered with Hollywood directors and make short films.

REAL DEAL Curriculum Lessons:

  • Common Core-aligned
  • Social Emotional Learning (SEL) competencies
  • Creative, interactive and democratic

Please register here to receive more information about the workshop dates and locations as they are set:

We Remember Emmett Till, Murdered 60 Years Ago Today

Emmett Till and mother Mamie Till Mobley
Emmett Till and mother Mamie Till Mobley

On my way for a visit home last fall, my bus from New York to Boston was delayed because of protests in both cities in the wake of the Darren Wilson decision; it was early morning when my mom picked me up. The grand jury in Ferguson failed to indict Darren Wilson, the man who shot Michael Brown, and people were mad. “This shouldn’t still be happening,” my mom said. “It reminds me of Emmett Till.”

Emmett Till’s name is the beginning of a story that’s haunted us for the better part of a century. A young black boy brutally killed for whistling at a white woman. The men who killed him were never charged.

Emmet’s mother Mamie, who insisted on an open casket funeral, also insisted that photographs of Emmett Till’s gruesomely murdered body be seen publicly, far and wide across the country, and today we still feel the impact of those images. It’s impossible to block out how disfigured and wholly dehumanized this boy appeared in death, who in life appeared as this vital-looking baby-faced kid.

Sixty years later, mothers and fathers of slain black boys in shockingly recent times will be special guests at the Emmett Till Remembrance Dinner — among those attending: Michael Brown, Sr., father to Mike Brown; Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin’s mother; Ron Davis, father of Jordan Davis; and Kadiatou Diallo, mother of Amadou Diallo.

We honor these parents and commemorate their children, along with Emmett and Mamie.

Mainstream Media Redirect: BuzzFeed Hires Trans Writer and Activist Meredith Talusan

meredith talusan
Meredith Talusan via

On the eve of her first formal day at BuzzFeed, Meredith Talusan shared with me one of her major apprehensions about the new staff writer position. “I’m a very, very early riser. I wake up with the sun and I start writing around 6:30 or 7 in the morning. Most of my work is done by 12 noon and then I need to take a nap.” Sure enough, according to her Twitter, she was up by 6 am the next morning, having already filed a piece for the site the night before. This crack-of-dawn work schedule has seen her through a snowballing freelance career since publishing an article on Geena Rocero for the American Prospect last year—her first as a publicly trans writer.

One year and some thirty-five pieces later, Talusan is joining the BuzzFeed staff at a moment in time marked by a troubling confluence of circumstances regarding representation and the media. While transgender narratives have received high-profile press attention, thanks in large part to the work of vocal trans celebrities Laverne Cox, Janet Mock, and Caitlyn Jenner, many of the urgent obstacles and dangers faced by members of trans communities continue unabated. At least 20 transgender women have been killed this year. Stable healthcare, employment, and safe housing are out of reliable reach for many transgender Americans. Meanwhile, diversity in the newsroom remains stagnant—at most American publications and networks, white and cis-gendered is the norm for editorial staff and management. As a result, too few trans voices are involved in the shaping and production of mainstream media, often rendering the tenor of coverage incomplete, disingenuous, or downright transphobic.

As Thomas McBee wrote in a piece for Quartz on Vanity Fair’s failure to feature trans writers in their recent special edition, “Trans America,”: “Who assigns, writes, and edits a story has tremendous power in defining its contents. Whether trans people are involved in the actual writing of stories about us matters quite a lot.” Talusan points out, too, the dangerous rhetoric behind Vanity Fair’s response to the allegations—namely, that they don’t ask writers to “specify gender identification.” Clearly, she said, “it wasn’t something they were actively thinking about and it should have been. To say that it’s actually a good thing to be blind to representation is really crazy.”

“Right now, we’re at a point where everything is an emergency. We’re trapped reacting. It takes time to sit back and really look at what’s going on and talk about the involved complexities.”

Talusan, who freelanced for BuzzFeed before they reached out to her personally about the full-time position, brings a uniquely liminal perspective to the mainstream media climate. Born and raised in the Philippines, her first interactions with American culture were fueled by an externalized fascination—as a young child, before formally learning English, she would watch American television shows and drink in the differences. Upon moving to the U.S., she spent much of her spare time immersed in hours of cultural catch-up. Since then, she has grounded that perspective in years of academic study—Talusan holds degrees from Harvard, California College of the Arts, and Cornell. Within those institutions, too, she felt a certain degree of outsidership as a person from a lower-middle class background without the disposable capital to design a career on her own terms straight out of school.

As a trans woman of color who has inhabited many different roles and social spheres within both American and Filipino society, Talusan is deeply perceptive when it comes to the importance of intersectionality in reporting on transgender identity, rights, and livelihood. “Trans as a social and cultural phenomenon and as an important civil rights issue cuts across feminism, it cuts across LGBT, it cuts across race, [and] it cuts across disability,” she explained. Her first piece as BuzzFeed staff writer contextualizes U.S. Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton’s murder of transgender Filipina Jennifer Laude within the historical context of trans panic, and her second centers on coverage of the Black Trans Lives Matter movement, and the events of Trans Liberation Tuesday. “Those two pieces are really connected—[they both highlight] misconceptions of trans women of color, the stigma attached to sex work, the ways in which people justify violence against trans women,” Talusan said.

Though swift reportage is a priority, Talusan also looks forward to staking out time and space for longer-form, in-depth analysis. “Right now, we’re at a point where everything is an emergency. We’re trapped reacting. It takes time to sit back and really look at what’s going on and talk about the involved complexities.” Part of the excitement, too, about working at BuzzFeed is the opportunity to intersperse reporting and theory-based articles with humorous ones—Talusan looks forward to writing “about my silly passions in a way that also goes into queer taste and queer aesthetics.”

“I’ve spent enough time criticizing old media organizations and I feel like my BuzzFeed position gives me an opportunity to just show by example. I can write and be as rigorous as any non-trans reporter, while at the same time bringing a perspective that nobody has on these issues because of my experience.”

buzzfeed-logoThe fact that BuzzFeed publishes such a wide range of content makes the position feel liberating for Talusan and fits into her hopes for the future of social media. “There’s something about that world that is upturning existing social paradigms. It re-orients the rules. We don’t know what’s going to happen. And so, as a result, it gives minorities space to take over.” That said, Talusan is acutely aware of the “embedded, structural” obstacles that prevent many people from “amassing enough social and educational capital to actually be in positions” like the one she has just been offered. “I’ve spent enough time criticizing old media organizations and I feel like my BuzzFeed position gives me an opportunity to just show by example. I can write and be as rigorous as any non-trans reporter, while at the same time bringing a perspective that nobody has on these issues because of my experience.”

Talusan says she admires BuzzFeed’s intention to cover transgender news not as some sort of “passing fancy in the media” but for what it is—people’s lives. “They’re really aware of who’s not in the room when making editorial decisions and they’re willing to relinquish or forgo part of their power, [so that] I can direct my own coverage and my own priorities.” Given the current disconnect between content produced by mainstream outlets on one hand, where trans people don’t necessarily have a voice, and abundant communities of brilliant trans writers, artists, and filmmakers operating at grassroots levels on the other, the opportunity for writers like Meredith Talusan to help direct the national conversation represents a pivotal moment in media.

ScenariosUSA is a nonprofit that uses film and writing to amplify youth voices on social justice issues.

Learn more here.

get involvedsupport us copy copyfilms button




About That NYT “How Changeable Is Gender” Op-Ed: Yeah, No

I don’t know exactly where to start with my feelings on Richard A. Friedman’s recent op-ed piece in the New York Times. On one hand, I’m happy to see that studies are being done and being understood, proving once and for all that being trans isn’t just some passing fancy or phase that my people and I are experiencing. But then on the other hand, why is there always such an emphasis on treatments and surgeries? And why all the generalizing about what is an appropriate age to transition? It really pisses me off that science and society have such a hard time realizing that not just trans people, but ALL people are completely different. All of our choices — be it surgeries or hormone treatments — are extremely personal and ours to make.

trans rights symbol PINK
trans rights symbol

The article starts out with an educational, researched, and accepting tone, and then messily fizzles into the individual choices that trans people make to feel whole. Why are our surgeries and hormone treatments always in question? Why are these researchers always trying to box everyone into a “one size fits all” experience? My experience is not that of Caitlyn Jenner’s nor that of Laverne Cox, so why are they trying to force us all into the same category? Trans people make decisions and work to make themselves happy just like any other person. Why isn’t that enough for people?

Some trans people want to have hormone treatment, some do not. Some want facial surgeries, some do not. Some want body modification or sexual reassignment surgeries, some do not. These choices do not differ from those made by any cis gender person who take necessary actions to give themselves bigger boobs, bigger muscles, or bigger butts to fit societal beauty norms or simply to please themselves — or from the cisgender person who likes themselves as they are. It’s a personal choice for cis people, yet they aren’t being tested for their mental health or being questioned about their motives. And that’s what irritates me about the premise of Friedman’s piece.

When a person is ready to be who they are, let them.

Science can not accurately evaluate people’s personal choices, or approximate the perfect age to act on surgeries or hormone treatments. If your five-year-old feels like they’re a girl or a boy and wants to act on that, be a parent and support them. I’ve felt like a girl as long as I can remember, but I wasn’t comfortable having that conversation as a kid during the early 90s because I’d never seen another trans person or even heard of a role model for one. Now kids are living in a time where the conversation can happen and they are talking! Do not insult a child’s intelligence by thinking they might change their mind later — it’s not a phase. And nobody is saying anyone should spend all their money on surgeries and treatments right away, but always hear young people out. Listen to what they’re saying. I didn’t know if I’d ever go through with it, so I waited until I graduated high school to act on my truth. I went to a gender therapist, did my own research and figured myself out. When a person is ready to be who they are, let them.

The author
Arisce Wanzer, photo credit Dustin Sohn

I don’t like discussing my personal choices as many interpret them in a way that degrades my trans identity — by only focusing on physical aspects, and disregarding the mental enlightenment I arrived at for my own self acceptance. But Friedman’s article prompts a feeling of responsibility to share some of the choices I’ve made for my trans community, and to share another perspective.

I have never felt like I was born in the wrong body. I wouldn’t want to be or look like anyone else but me. I have never taken hormones. I have zero facial surgeries. I did have my breasts done — a huge thank you to my older sister Dawn for that one. I got them done for me, not because I didn’t already feel like a woman. Do I have insecurities? Of course. Societal beauty standards and social pressures are real. Am I happy? Generally, yes. Will I have more surgeries in the future? Maybe? Will I try hormones in the future? I don’t know, I don’t plan on it, but like anybody on earth I’m allowed to change my mind tomorrow, because it’s my life. My message to scientists, politicians, society, and my trans family is this: Stop putting people in boxes. Nobody grew up exactly like you, raised on the exact same value system, or exposed to what you were. Walk in your own shoes, live your truth, be a good person, take your time, and mind your own business. Everything else is just noise.

ScenariosUSA is a nonprofit that uses film and writing to amplify youth voices on social justice issues.

Learn more here.

get involvedsupport us copy copyfilms button




It’s Not About the Hair or Beyonce or Vogue, It’s About White Presumption of Women’s Politics

In a recent article for the Atlantic, Megan Garber (the same white journalist who suggested that the term “squad” was created by famous white women), wrote about Vogue’s September cover featuring Beyoncé — specifically, the bold political statement made by the “stringy” and “un-pretty” styling of her hair.

Beyonce Photo from Vogue via

Vogue’s September issue is arguably its most popular of the year — the cover is a very big deal — but for starters, Beyoncé’s accomplishments can’t really be reduced down to her hair. Also, the style is an established mainstream look, so what’s the big deal? Wet and wavy hair has always been a popular mainstay for women from all racial and ethnic backgrounds. Countless music videos feature artists whose hair is wet or coated with products to make it hold a sexy, beachy-wave. And certainly this is not the first time Vogue has featured a woman with wet and wavy hair on the cover — Blake Lively and Rihanna, among others. Consumer sales clearly indicate that most people see the appeal of wet hair in the endless amount of products bought and sold. So it’s odd that Garber would call the style “non-fierce” and “un-done” — but whatever.

The main fail of this piece is not Garber’s assertion that Beyoncé’s hairsyle is a political statement, but rather in making the assertion without realizing that it’s not even Beyoncé’s own hair. It’s actually a weave. The irony, of course, is that Black women have been straightening our hair since we were freed. As recently as in the past two years, natural Black hair and afros on both men and women have been discriminated against as unprofessional in corporate America.

For this reason, Black men got haircuts and Black women used hot combs to attain the straight hair of their Caucasian counterparts. At one time, even Civil Rights Leader Martin Luther King Jr. encouraged these practices to win middle-class white Americans over in hopes of equal and fair opportunities for Black people. Although other activists such as Stokley Carmichael didn’t agree with King’s respectability politics and encouraged the opposite: wear afros. The afro became a political symbol of the Black Power Movement and the refusal to accept America’s institutionalized racism. The afro made a political statement and it still does. But, wet hair? Not so much.

Ad for Hair Relaxer August 1967 issue of Ebony via

Beyoncé has always rocked gorgeous and diverse hairstyles — experimentation with texture, straightened-out or relaxed, added extensions. From time to time Beyoncé has taken photos with her real hair straightened and colored, but on the September Vogue cover she is wearing a weave — one that has likely been doctored with hair products (which is actually a very done process, contrary to what Garber writes) to create perfectly smooth and crimped curls.

As only the third black woman to land the September cover of Vogue, Beyoncé should be lauded more for her accomplishments — her chart-topping hits, charity work in Haiti, and award nominations. “Being a woman and haver of hair,” as Garber writes, is not enough to grant authority on whether a Black woman’s hair is political or not. Though Beyoncé’s hair (and entire look) is stunning, it was not a political statement. It’s a successful Black woman being beautiful and basking in her glory. Comments and essays on Black hair should be left alone if the writer doesn’t know anything about it.

ScenariosUSA is a nonprofit that uses film and writing to amplify youth voices on social justice issues.

Learn more here.

get involvedsupport us copy copyfilms button

Are You Ready for ‘Flaw Love’? Meet Emily-Anne Rigal, Author of the Self-Esteem Guide ‘FLAWD’

reposted with permission from

Emily-Anne Rigal is 21 years old and a serious force of nature.

Emily-Anne Rigal, founder of WeStopHate and author of "FLAWD."
Emily-Anne Rigal, founder of WeStopHate and author of “FLAWD.”


She’s the founder and director of WeStopHate, which focuses on building self-esteem to combat self-hatred and bullying, and she just came out with her first book,FLAWD: How to Stop Hating on Yourself, Others, and the Things That Make You Who You Are, written with Jeanne Demers. Our Campus Correspondent Jessica Zhou chatted with Emily-Anne on the phone about her movement, her book, and more.

Jessica says:

“Emily-Anne is very passionate and intelligent about what she does, and I really enjoyed being able to pick her brain. Her journey to get to where she is now is pretty darn inspiring, so I’m very glad I had the opportunity to speak with her over the phone about her book and other related matters.”

Jessica Zhou: So the inevitable question: why did you write this book? I know you’re really big on self love and positivity; you’ve already done a lot with WeStopHate. Was there an epiphany moment at some point that led to this book?

Emily-Anne Rigal: I was approached by Penguin to write a book, and was very excited about this opportunity, so I worked with my co-writer, Jeanne Demers, to figure out how exactly we envisioned the book coming to life and what would be included in it. WeStopHate has over 100 teen-made WeStopHate YouTube videos that have been really successful, and have over a million video views.

We wanted to take the tips, stories, and suggestions that young people shared in their videos and create a self-esteem guide based on the videos. What we did was transcribe all the videos and took notes. We used the voices and the stories teens shared as the jumping off point for creating the book. The book really is and was meant to be a guide on the 5 years of awesome WeStopHate content.

Jessica: How did you decide on the title FLAWD? Was this a stylistic choice or symbolic one?

Emily-Anne: One of the things that almost all of the WeStopHate videos talked about was how we all have flaws.

Accepting our flaws and that we have them is the only way we can come to self-acceptance.

The idea behind WeStopHate and this self esteem guide, FLAWD, is that people who feel good about themselves want other people to feel the same. People who are hurt tend to hurt other people, and a really proactive, positive approach to bullying is to raise self-esteem.

WeStopHate has always been, from the very beginning, a self-esteem building program.

What comes out of that is anti-bullying. When people were making their WeStopHate videos, they’ll talk about how something that was holding them back were their flaws. They were upset with whether they had acne, or their weight wasn’t perfect, or they didn’t like their brain, and so we felt that such a big issue for young people is flaws. It made sense to call the book FLAWD because this book really helps people use flaws as the doorway to self-acceptance.

Jessica: Definitely. I can relate to flaws being such an important thing as a young person, so I thought the title represented the book well! You make an important distinction between “flaw love” and “flaw hate.” Why do you think we live in a “flaw hate” society? Where does it come from?

Emily-Anne: I think that in our society we’re often been told that we’re not good enough, and I think a big part of that has to do with marketing and advertising because a lot of companies and brands and products get sold because we think, If we just got this, we would be good enough. In order to sell merchandise and keep the economy going, we’re told in our society that we’re not good enough.

The purpose of FLAWD is to really say to people that, “You’re plenty good enough, you’re good enough, you’re important enough, you’re ready enough, just as you are, to make a positive difference in the world.”

flawd book cover

One of the biggest advantages of doing something good in the world is that unseeable act. By doing things that are unseeable acts, your self esteem is raised. By smiling at someone, complimenting someone, it’s amazing how good you’ll feel by doing that. Not only are you making a positive difference that’s great for the world, it’s also great for you.

Jessica: Building off of that, there’s this saying that the person who is doing the bullying was once the bullied themselves. Where do you think the cycle starts, and how do you stop it?

Emily-Anne: When I switched schools, after having been bullied for so many years, I ended becoming a bully myself because I had felt so damaged having been a victim of bullying. It wasn’t until I started to really feel good about myself, that I stopped being the bully and left the bullying cycle. I was really lucky that I had a lot of great friends that were role models to me in terms of how to be a good friend myself and by surrounding myself around positive people I started to adopt that really positive attitude as well.

People who are hurt, hurt other people. That’s why at WeStopHate we invite everybody to be a part of the WeStopHate community because whether you’re a bystander and need a little extra boost to stand up for someone, invite someone who’s being bullied to sit with you at lunch, or you’re the bully, struggling, or you’re being bullied and it’s really giving you a tough time and you don’t want to continue the cycle and bully others, WeStopHate is really a community for everybody.

Jessica: So it seems like WeStopHate is an example of positive media. In society we see media being a huge factor in shaping our way of thinking. Being someone totally obsessed with media, practically growing up with it, I can relate to your reference to celebrity culture, and this mindset of “never having enough.” I was wondering if there were any other types of negative influences you’ve seen in the media, or alternatively, positive influences?

Emily-Anne: I think WeStopHate really combats negativity with positivity. One thing to be conscious about when you’re online, since a good part of the media we consume these days is through social media, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr. It is important that you are conscious of who you follow and make sure that your friends on Facebook, pages you like, those you decide to follow on Twitter and Instagram are those that post positive content that inspire you rather than put you down or make you feel less. You might not know if a person or a brand is a good account to be connected with. When you see that the content or person is clearly not benefitting you, be the first person to unfollow or defriend. I think it’s so important that when it comes to cyberbullying that we delete the digital profile. The best way is to only surround yourself with as much encouraging, supportive people, which applies online as well.

Jessica: About cyberbullying–did you experience this in elementary school?

Emily-Anne: I wasn’t bullied on social media in elementary school because it wasn’t that big at the time. However when I first joined YouTube, I was getting a ton of hater comments. Hater comments were basically from people who weren’t making videos and not putting themselves out there, but being the first to criticize people who made videos, and I was definitely one of those people making videos. WeStopHate came out of this idea that we wanted to stop the hater comments.

One thing that I did was block the people who were saying the negative things. In the beginning it was really hard because I would get a lot of comments and only some of them were positive, and I would sometimes only focus on the negative comments that would make me not want to continue positing. I remember crying one night as I was reading the messages.

By focusing on, changing my perspective and focusing on the good comments I was getting, by removing the bad ones I was able to continue posting. Had I stopped when I first got all of those neg comments, I wouldn’t have created WeStopHate and my life wouldn’t have been as full, beautiful, positive as it is today. I persevered, but it definitely wasn’t always easy.

Jessica: Definitely. I do remember when I first joined YouTube, I would come across those kinds of hater comments and just think, “Wow, that’s such a harsh thing to say to someone you only know through the media.” Another media and society question: What do you think media would be like in a “flaw love” society?

Emily-Anne: One thing we don’t realize is that when we’re vulnerable and we mess up or fail and we’re open about it that invites others to do the same thing. A lot of time in the media, we see all these things where people are perfect and that makes it us feel afraid to fail. In a flaw-love society we would see people mess up and persevere and keep going and eventually find success. We need to remember, that it’s okay to be honest about what makes us feel vulnerable , which unites us. It’s not our strengths that bind us together, but it’s our weaknesses.

Jessica: I totally agree with the idea that vulnerabilities are things to be celebrated. Speaking of celebration, as the narrative goes, Millennials are self-centered, narcissistic, very focused on themselves, a generation has the potential to become Generation We, “very done, overdone, crisply done” with hate and everything that comes with hate. Since you pointed out that we are the generation that is going to be taking on all of these problems that our parents didn’t have to deal with, how do you think that doing away with this attitude of hate will help us later on in the future when it comes time to have to come up with these solutions to these problems?

Emily-Anne: I think we are Generation We, and the flawed and the powerful. We all have social media, as something that we know intimately, which is new to our generation. With the Internet we all have a platform to express a message, and young people are so committed to wanting good change in the world. I think that is encouraging to all to tell our stories these days; we don’t rely on media or a major magazine to tell our stories, but rather we’re the storytellers of our own stories, and I think that allows us to be so much stronger as a generation when it’s time to do good.

Jessica: Definitely, I agree that uniting together will be so much better than tearing each other down, so I’m looking forward to seeing what happens in the future, how we do address these problems! I read your “Blab session” [in the book] and so I was curious whether there were any plans in the near future of becoming a radio personality?

Emily-Anne: My dream in middle school was to become a radio personality, that was all I thought about, but I think these days I’m a little more focused on expanding WeStopHate and continuing to run it, doing workshops with the content outlined inFlawd. I’m no longer seeking a career in radio, but that definitely has a soft, warm, happy spot in my heart.

emily-anne rigal and jeanne demers

Jessica: Aww! What would you say to your younger self? Your younger self any point in time, if you could.

Emily-Anne: I would tell myself, when I was being bullied, I would tell that 10-year-old that it really will be okay. There will come a time when you will be grateful for these difficult experiences because you were able to make the best out of it, and use it as a strength in the end. Those trying experiences that you’re going through now at 10 are the things that will help make you so much more compassionate later on. Don’t beat yourself down, feel the feelings that come with it, but know that in the end it will be fine.

ScenariosUSA is a nonprofit that uses film and writing to amplify youth voices on social justice issues.

Learn more here.

get involvedsupport us copy copyfilms button