Starting April 17, Portland Parks & Recreation offers QCrew -- weekly drop-in and registration classes. Thanks to the efforts of PFLAG Portland Black Chapter and the Matt Dishman Community Center, Parks will provide a safe space for LGBTQ students and allies.
PFLAG Portland Black Chapter Youth coordinator, Leila, reached out to staff at Dishman last summer after they hosted the Queer Youth of Color Pool Party. She had a vision for creating more regularly accessible programming for Portland’s Queer Youth. Through ongoing conversations with Portland Parks staff and support from WesternStatesCenter, Leila was able to successfully have QCrew added to Matt Dishman’s spring calendar. The new curriculum is geared to be a model for other community centers to take on in the future.
“Parks is one of the things that makes Portland a fantastic place to be. It's an indispensable resource for the quality of life here, especially for those on the lower ends of the income bracket and especially for youth. It's just natural that they should expand their services to the LGBTQ Youth community,” said Leila Hofstein, youth Coordinator for PFLAG Portland Black Chapter.
PP&R staff has, and continue to, regularly engage with the LGBTQ community, says Parks spokesman Mark Ross.
“We not only provide programs, we hear and respond to concerns, and create a safe and welcoming environment for all,” he says. “Members of the LGBTB community have told us they come to our centers such as MattDishmanCommunity Center specifically for our welcoming, judgment-free, and safe environment.”
Portland Parks Northeast Zone manager Susan Glenn is clear about how homophobia is hurting our communities.
“LGBTQ youth face higher risk in many ways; suicide is the leading cause of death among lesbian and gay adolescents,” she says. “Without community support they are much more likely to engage in risky behaviors such as drug and alcohol use than their heterosexual peers.”
Ross says PP&R has worked in the past with the Q Center and SexualMinorityYouthResourceCenter, because of the critical need youths have for a non-judgmental place to hang out and have fun.
The 8 week course includes visual arts, dance, theatre, QPOC (Queer people of color) history, sewing and costume construction as well as social justice activism (activism is not part of the program). Artists from Radius Studios, Lightbox Kulturhaus, and Youth Empowered Sewing (Y.E.S.) have come together to lend their skills and talent to making this program engaging and fun for everyone who joins, either for the whole course or just a drop-in! The course is open to all and will not only provide an opportunity for LGBT youth to expand their horizons, but will also provide space and opportunity for non-queer youth to learn how to be an effective ally, and for both to learn how to interrupt oppression in their daily lives.
Part of the work of PFLAG Portland Black Chapter’s youth outreach program led by Leila includes staff/faculty inclusivity training and support of Gay/Queer/Straight Alliances in high schools throughout Portland. We are excited for this first of its kind new programming at PP& R and for expansion of the program in the near future. We appreciate Portland Parks for taking leadership in supporting all youth including those on the LGBTQ spectrum.
QCrew meets Thursdays starting April 17 at Matt Dishman Community Center, 77 NE Knott St., Portland.