Ruth Ellis Center’s Youth Advisory Board Visits UN

Jason A. Michael
By | 2019-03-13T14:05:39-05:00 March 13th, 2019|Michigan, News|

A group of six members of the youth advisory board of the Ruth Ellis Center traveled to New York from Feb. 21 through 24 to take part in the 2019 U.N. Global Engagement Summit at the United Nation’s headquarters. The opportunity came about as part of a collaboration between attorney London Bell and the Bell Global Justice Institute and the Ruth Ellis Center. Bell, a member of the United Nations Association of Greater Detroit, had been preparing the youth for the trip since last June.
“[I] held different workshops on advocacy strategies, voting rights and then, most recently, the United Nations and how it works and preparing them for the trip to the U.N.,” she said. “The youth were very engaged and really interested in learning more about how to include advocacy strategies in their current activism work.
Armed with knowledge, the youths walked into U.N. headquarters with enthusiasm and confidence, said Lilianna Reyes, Second Stories director for REC and a chaperone on the trip.
“The youth really enjoyed their UN trip,” Reyes said. “They were able to sit in the seats of actual delegates and see people from all over the world. We wanted to give them the chance to see how change can happen through community togetherness. They were able to see how small acts of advocacy funnel into a larger global scale. They talked to other LGBTQ people who had been tortured just because of their identity. For some, they were able to see the climate of our community and the differences worldwide.”
Pamela Alexander, REC’s deputy director and Bell’s mother, also went on the trip.
“The youth networked, attended U.N. workshops and they had an opportunity to attend LGBTQ-specific workshops from a global perspective,” Alexander said.
And when they weren’t at the U.N. headquarters, the youth took in the city’s sights.
“They took New York City by storm,” Alexander said. “They were paired with chaperones and visited many sites including Sylvia’s, a famous soul food restaurant, a legendary bookstore, a tattoo shop in Harlem. They also went to Times Square, Stonewall and Central Park, just to name a few places.”
Sterling Clemmons, REC’s youth services manager, was also on the trip.
“This was all new,” Clemmons said. “For some of the staff and a lot of the youth, this was the first time they traveled like this. For a couple of them, it was their first time on a plane. So, for it to be a lot of peoples’ first, was kind of magical to watch.”
Reyes agreed.
“It was so amazing to experience youth being able to network with so many world leaders,” she said. “Many of the youth had never left Detroit, and to be able to take them not only to New York but to the United Nations, was truly emotional.”
Memories of the trip, Clemmons said, will surely linger with trip-goers for years to come.
“I hope that they took away that no matter how small of a place they feel they serve, their voices are important and heard,” Clemmons said. “I hope it motivated them. We’ve had a couple people come back super motivated [who] wanted to create programs and get involved in programs.
“One of our youth was able to speak on an international level,” Clemmons went on. “Whatever table you’re invited to, I tell them, ‘Make sure you take that invitation and show yourself and show your skills.’ And I think a lot of the youth were able to do that on this trip and I hope that they continue it now that we’re back in the city.”

About the Author:

Jason A. Michael
Jason A. Michael earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Wayne State University before joining Between The Lines as a contributing writer in 1999. Jason has received both the Spirit of Detroit Award (presented by the Detroit City Council) and the Media Award from the Community Pride Banquet & Awards Ceremony for his writing and activism. Jason is also an Essence magazine bestselling author having written the authorized biography "Strength Of A Woman: The Phyllis Hyman Story," which he released on his own JAM Books imprint.