Youth Voices Tackle Racial Injustice in a New Exhibit Opening This Summer.

Intertrend, a multicultural agency, hosted a kick-off event launching their new exhibition, “Letters to…” as a part of their #MakeNoiseToday campaign on June 9. From June 10 to August 31, the exhibition will be available for viewing at the Billie Jean King Library, located at 200 West Broadway in Long Beach. 

In December of last year, teenagers in the U.S. were asked to write letters describing difficult thoughts, feelings, or experiences regarding their racial and ethnic identities. These letters could be written to themselves, family members, future children, or other peers. Eventually, over 900 submissions were received, and the authors of the top 10 essays were awarded a scholarship prize, along with their letters being displayed in the “Letters to…” exhibition.

At the exhibit’s kick-off event, five student authors from across the country had the opportunity to read their work out loud, whether in person or virtually. These talented students were Aida Guo, Natasha Quinn, Arabella Varieur, Amerie Gallegos, and Coco Zheng. Additionally, guest speakers expressed the importance of youth voices in the fight for racial equality. 

“[Teenagers] are open. They aren’t as jaded as a lot of adults are…and they are the future,” said Michael Vitug, Intertrend’s Executive Director, when asked about the importance of teenage voices in today’s society. He goes on to explain that if the campaign can “change someone from doing either harm to themselves, venting, or lashing out violently, [to putting] their feelings on paper, we’ve done our job.”

Intertrend launched the #MakeNoiseToday campaign in efforts to combat racism by encouraging Asian Americans to share personal stories about culture, heritage, and challenges faced as a result of racial injustice. “Letters to…” is the newest installation of the campaign. 

Often, today’s youth can experience challenging feelings towards their identity that can be hard to express verbally. Having the opportunity to express them on paper can be helpful and freeing, while also providing an outlet to speak out against social issues and concerns.

High school senior, Arabella Varieur, expressed her opinions on the significance of youth activism in today’s world. “These are kids,” she said, “and they’re able to articulate and feel these emotions about racial injustice. That’s how you know there is something wrong.” 

Arabella Varieur won silver in the “Letters to…” competition. From the start, she was eager to participate, and couldn’t wait to share her story with the world. “I was looking for ways to put my activism out there in a creative way,” she explained. In regards to the future of the exhibit, she hopes “this event reaches the right people, and it shows [them] that not only are there teenagers and people out there who have something to say, but that these are real problems they are speaking about.”

To support and check out the works of these talented students, visit the Billie Jean King Library in Long Beach anytime from June 10 to August 31. More information about the campaign and exhibit can be found here.

By Kate Bell

Photos courtesy of Calvin Nakamaru and Michelle Park.