Teens use art to promote community support

Homer’s teens want the community to stop making assumptions about them, and they’re using art to get everyone’s attention.

The group of teens involved in Homer’s Lead On group is hosting an event to kick off a media campaign focusing on the negative effects of stereotyping from 6-8 p.m. Friday at K-Bay Caffe. 

The idea is to start a conversation, said Homer High senior Lilli Johnson. 

“We wanted to focus on stereotypes about teens because it’s such a unique issue. All adults have been teens in their lifetime, but the stereotypes keep changing, at least with a little bit of variety. So it’s like ‘all we want to do is party,’ or ‘we don’t care about the world,’ or ‘we’re really self-absorbed.’ I think nowadays it’s a lot of ‘we’re always on our phones’ and ‘we’re superficial,’” Johnson said. “Obviously we’re not superficial or we wouldn’t be putting on this event. We’re socially conscious and we want to make a difference.”

The group, which is a collaborative effort between Haven House and the R.E.C. Room, allows teens to lead the way and make big decisions in a community project, said violence prevention coordinator Tara Schmidt, who helps guide the group.

“I think they draw from personal experiences and one of those experiences is feeling boxed in by other people’s expectations,” Schmidt said. “So they wanted a creative way to point those out and get people to subtly start to question those … It also points to a larger theme of when we stereotype people, when we say because you are one way you are something else, that can often be related to different forms of oppression.”

The event will feature Anchorage spoken word poet Trey Josey, have small groups for discussion and provide space and supplies for people to create art of their own. Anyone who wishes to contribute their finished product to Lead On’s campaign can do so at the event. 

“You can paint how stereotypes feel or what you went through; creatively express things we’ve been talking about,” Johnson said.

The art from the event and other pieces already collected by Lead On over the past few months will be used as backgrounds for posters featuring the phrase, “I am a teenager,” followed by a statement that breaks a stereotype. 

The group plans to put the posters up around the Homer community.

“For instance “I am a teenager and I am not going to stay in Homer my entire life,” said Homer High senior Shenandoah Lush. “Which I think that is something teens here feel. They don’t feel empowered enough to leave or feel that they’re stuck. That’s one of the things that inspired us to say you can. You are empowered to make your own strides.”

Lead On hopes that the posters will serve as conversation starters in the community, and inspire adults to think twice before assuming things of teens. Adults can practice empathy and mindfulness towards the teens in their community, Johnson said. Anyone who interacts with teens, or is a teen, should attend the event to have their voice heard.

“Homer’s really awesome in a way that it can really raise people up, but then there’s also the possibility where not everybody has that support,” Lush said. “I think that’s the challenge. It all starts with positive adults in your life that can help raise you up and guide you until you’re ready to take those steps.”