There is a creative revolution rising up in this country’s youth, a revolution fought with a pen and paper, a camera, a paintbrush—the spoken word on a stage electrifying a room with hope, with anger, with political and personal commentary, with an awareness that young people cannot and must not be counted out.
My writing and life’s work is about empowering voice in those who often feel they have none. The quick label for this kind of kid is “at-risk.” Being at-risk means that an obstacle, or a series of them, prevents a young person from reaching their potential. Poverty, abuse, homelessness, mental health challenges, ethnicity, class, teen pregnancy, incarceration, and/or even lack of adult support can be factors. The thing to remember is that they are kids—kids who are in struggle and need you to meet them where they are.
In 2013, I set out across America to empower at-risk youth through free writing workshops and discussions couched in a hybrid book tour for my novel Fat Angie. This experience showed me the hunger and hurt young people experience on the path to validation. Their voices and stories inspired me to reach even deeper in my writing and activism for youth as I encouraged them to do the same.
From that tour experience came Never Counted Out, a nonprofit cofounded by myself and author C.G. Watson to continue creative mentorship for at-risk youth. It is a hub to bridge the gap between artists and youth, to provide books to young people around the country, and in the near future, to create and run art/leadership-centered camps.
The nonprofit is an extremely important part of my work, because as a one-time at-risk Mexican American kid growing up in poverty-stricken south Texas, I know access to creative mentorship would have curtailed some of my struggle. I believe this type of mentorship allows young people to see themselves as innovators and as curators of their own stories. To imagine themselves, whether they are Latinx, African American, Native American, Asian American, LGBTQ, gender nonconforming—however they move through this world—able to use their voices and their stories to reflect changes in the way we look at personal and artistic narratives.
This revolution is happening now. We must give all young people a place to be bold, to be loud, and to express themselves. Now more than ever, our young people need safe harbors in the adult world and infinite ways to speak and be heard. And I’m elated to discuss this at NCTE 2016. I am on fire!
Welcome to the Creative Revolution!
Author, filmmaker, and motivational speaker e.E. Charlton-Trujillo has been deemed a “force of nature” by Kirkus Reviews. Known for her powerful writing and youth activism, Charlton-Trujillo’s high energy Rock the Word workshops make her one of the most engaging authors speaking to young people today. Winner of the ALA Stonewall Award for Fat Angie, she has also penned three other critically praised, award-winning novels. Her award-winning feature documentary, At-Risk Summer, chronicles the stories of at-risk youth, interviews award-winning authors, and reveals her personal journey to empower change.
Find out more about her at: http://bigdreamswrite.com/