For six weeks over the summer, youth ages 14-24 attended twice-weekly sessions as part of the LGBTQ Center OC’s Color me Equal Leadership Bootcamp. Through the program, they learned leadership skills and core elements of organizing and campaign development through a social justice lens.

The goal of the bootcamp is to train youth to become knowledgeable advocates in their schools, so that they, in turn, can advocate on behalf of the LGBTQ members in their communities. Courses focused on cycles of oppression, power analysis, base building, campaign strategy, LGBTQ Pride organizing, Gay-Straight Alliance development, and restorative justice. In August, 15 new students graduated, ready to put into practice the skills they learned.

On August 22nd, community member and tattoo artist, Jasin O’Blaney, hosted Equal OC at The Tattoo Gallery in Huntington Beach. With the ethos of “Change starts from within” he was able to throw quite the shindig, offering equality tattoos and donating 100% of the proceeds to the LGBTQ Center OC. There was fantastic turnout and 70 people got tattoos!!!

Jasin was inspired by the SCOTUS ruling on marriage equality over the summer and felt compelled to support the community – specifically youth programs. More than $5,000 was raised at this event and will be used to sponsor LGBTQ Center OC youth attendance at the Creating Change Conference in Chicago. The conference, put on by the LGBTQQ National Taskforce, is “the pre-eminent political, leadership and skills-building conference for the LGBTQQ social justice movement”, now in its 28th year.

Our goals for youth programming are to build positive identity, leadership skills, and civic engagement among LGBTQQ youth. Thanks to Color me Equal Leadership Bootcamp, Jasin and his amazing team of tattoo artists, bartenders, photographers, friends, Dos Chinos, Haole Boys Shaved Ice, and Tommy T’s Body Piercing, youth are well on their way to achieving these goals.

In addition to our recent Bootcamp graduates, we would be remiss if we neglected to mention that two of the LGBTQ Center OC’s staff recently graduated from the Orange County Sherriff’s Department Citizen’s Academy! Laura Kanter, Director of Policy, Advocacy and Youth Programs, and Tony Viramontes, Director of Prevention Services, attended the nine-week course where they received tactical training, education on basic procedures and forensics, and were given tours of several facilities. This insight into police procedure and culture will serve them well when relating to law enforcement personnel involved in the police partnership. The mission of the OC LGBTQQ Policing Partnership is to build safer communities, foster positive relationships, and promote cooperation between Law Enforcement and the LGBTQQ community through mutual trust, understanding and support.