By Elliot Owen
Bay Area Reporter
Well-known LGBTQ youth media production organization outLoud Radio recently made a major transition enabling the 12-year-old San Francisco-based nonprofit to reach more people — a merger with Oakland-based Youth Radio.
The acquisition of outLoud by Youth Radio was announced October 19, and was the result of conversations begun between the two organizations earlier this year.
The deal was celebrated at Youth Radio headquarters in downtown Oakland last month. Attended by about 80 current and former outLoud and Youth Radio participants, administration, and supporters, the event served as the official marker for the new partnership.
Outgoing Executive Director Noah Miller started outLoud when he was 23 as a way to get the stories of LGBTQ youth out on radio airwaves. As a longtime small independent media producer, outLoud’s regularly accessible first person radio broadcasts have been heard on media outlets like StoryCorps, the Public Radio Exchange, and KQED. And, Miller told the Bay Area Reporter, the possibilities for outLoud didn’t stop there.
“Recently, we started talking about ways we could work with more youth,” Miller said. “When the opportunity came up to partner with Youth Radio, who we’ve always looked up to as a big player, it was very exciting because they have tremendous capacity, resources, and name recognition. They get their content out widely, have state-of-the-art facilities, and work with populations we’ve always wanted to reach. For all these reasons, it felt right.”
Youth Radio is excited about the relaunch, too. Founded in 1992, the well-established media production company with a $4 million annual budget trains youth from an array of backgrounds in digital media and technology. Known for creating youth-centered content often featured on media outlets like National Public Radio, Huffington Post, and the Public Broadcasting Service, Youth Radio’s lesser known internal programming fosters youth development through media and job skill classes, trainings, and programs.
Inclusivity is central to Youth Radio’s mission and, Youth Radio deputy director Jabari Gray told the B.A.R., Youth Radio wants all young people, LGBTQ included, to receive the training to tell their stories.
“It started off as young people in general being a marginalized population within popular media,” Gray said. “Within that age demographic, there are so many ways to slice that community, so many different experiences that make that up. In order to serve youth as a whole, the idea is to be as broadly inclusive as possible. We’re about amplifying the voices of all young people, and moving into a more intentional space around amplifying the voices of LGBTQ youth feels like a natural thing. We want to be more ‘outloud’ about it, really.”
Now operating within Youth Radio’s organizational structure, outLoud’s LGBTQ programming is currently being redesigned and on track for implementation between now and early next year. Integral to outLoud’s relaunch at Youth Radio is Elena Botkin-Levy, the only paid employee that’s transferred from outLoud to Youth Radio. A former outLoud program coordinator, Botkin-Levy is now a Youth Radio media education coordinator and journalism instructor.
“Elena’s had a foot in both organizations,” Miller said. “She’s run a number of programs at outLoud over the years, our intergenerational storytelling project, our podcast, and now she works at Youth Radio and is completely ready to carry this on.”
Acting as the bridge between the two entities, Botkin-Levy is committed to ensuring the transition is smooth in implementation and comprehensive in approach. Having worked at outLoud since 2008, she’s also excited about Youth Radio’s intent to absorb the mission and work of outLoud into its existing structure.
“For the past 12 years,” Botkin-Levy said, “outLoud has become a strong space for queer young folks to be with each other, learn to produce media, and exercise voice. In this moment of transition, it seems so natural for outLoud and Youth Radio to link. Youth Radio gets to take on the expertise that outLoud has developed in working with queer youth media production and affirmative space, and build that into what Youth Radio already does really well, which is work with diverse young folks in the Bay Area. We’re going to be really thoughtful and intentional about developing outLoud within Youth Radio, to absorb all the beauty that outLoud is into the multifaceted work Youth Radio does.”
Aside from programmatic changes and developments within Youth Radio on account of outLoud’s acquisition, the terms of which were not disclosed, Youth Radio’s physical space and office culture will be realigned to more intentionally support LGBTQ youth. According to Miller, Youth Radio is discussing the installation of gender-neutral bathrooms, and integrating gender-neutral pronouns into programming.
“They’re talking about introducing gender-neutral pronouns into more common understanding and usage,” Miller said, “and creating an advisory committee to talk about best practices around how to be an exemplary supporter of LGBTQ youth.”
While the relaunch of outLoud means a number of changes for the entity’s programming, its mission remains the same – to help develop the agency and skills of LGBTQ youth who want to be in charge of their own stories. Formerly under the fiscal sponsorship of LYRIC, outLoud is now accepting donations through Youth Radio.
To donate to outLoud, visit www.outloudradio.org.