QSpot will host a “We are Family”-themed event from 8 p.m.-midnight May 18 at Broad Street Ministry, 315 S. Broad St. The free program is geared toward LGBT and ally youth, ages 18-29.
QSpot, launched in 2011, runs bimonthly from May-December to offer youth a safe spot to network with other youth, explore issues impacting their community and access free community resources.
After this month’s event, QSpot will be held every first and third Saturday.
Co-advisor Paul D’Avanzo noted that each session is coordinated by the Philadelphia Young Leaders Council, a group of people in their early 20s who work with the LGBTQ youth community to identify what issues they would like QSpot to focus on.
“The PYLC members plan and coordinate the whole year’s programming,” D’Avanzo said. “We have one returning member and six new members so we have a pretty fresh group of young people leading this. We use a model that puts the control in the hands of the community we’re looking to target. We’re not coming in as outsiders and saying, ‘These are the problems that you need to address,’ but instead we have the PYLC members go into their own community and ask their friends and peers about the biggest issues they’re facing, and then from there they figure out the programming.”
Co-advisor Quincy Greene said the group meets once a week for three hours and noted how impressed he’s been by their dedication.
“They are a pretty dynamic group,” Greene said. “They’re the epitome of what we’re looking for in young leaders. They’ve already planned out to event number seven. They’re driven, focused, efficient, and I’m really surprised at how fast they’ve taken to this process.”
This weekend’s event, three days before Election Day, will feature guest speakers Sherrie Cohen and Michael Williams, both attorneys and former political candidates, as well as Anna Aagenes, district office director for state Rep. Brian Sims.
This year’s future programming will look at such topics as intimate-partner violence and issues affecting trans youth.
In addition to the conversation sessions, QSpot will feature free food, free and confidential HIV and STI testing and opportunities for youth to meet with mental-health workers and other professionals.
Greene said the event has always been violence-free, a trend he anticipates will continue.
“One of the things for me that is tantamount in the program is the idea that this is a safe space, with no ‘shade.’ In our community, whether it’s adults or adolescents, shade has become a currency; the more shade you throw, the more currency you have,” he said. “It’s a form of self-defense —the idea of ‘I’ll get you before you get me’ — but these young people are harming each other and the community by relying on shade. We’ve talked to the young leaders group about how important it is to keep developing a shade-free space and I’m very excited for that.”
The program draws support from a number of local organizations, including Educational Justice Coalition, Brothers United, the SafeGuards Project, Project PrEPare at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Penn’s Center for AIDS Research and Public Health Management Corporation’s Philadelphia Hepatitis Outreach Project.
D’Avanzo said youth of all backgrounds are welcome at the event and can all take away something relevant.
“We’re all about creating a safe and supportive environment,” he said. “Everyone who fits the age range and anyone who’s gay, straight, bi, trans — it doesn’t matter, we want everyone to feel supported.”
For more information, visit www.facebook.com/qspot.philly.