myMSG [ My Message ] Project Going Strong!
Our current youth project is proving to be hugely successful! Our staff member and group of Peer Educators have presented to hundreds of youth across Toronto over the past several months, creating spaces for sharing and learning from experiences of bullying, exclusion, teasing, oppression, lack of affirming representations, and their impacts on youth self-esteems, identities, relationships, and communities.
The idea behind the myMSG Project and its name, is that all of us, particularly those of us who experience marginalization, receive negative messages about who and how we are in the world. These messages are often connected to larger systems and ideas (whether racist, xenophobic, homophobic, ableist, fatphobic, classist, etc.) that value certain bodies and lives over others, which harms all of us. We deliver interactive and personal narrative presentations based on our own experiences with such messaging. We draw connections between our experiences and those of the participants, so that we can all learn from each other.
Additionally, we work to encourage self-confidence and positivity in youth, as we invite them to interrupt the negative messaging they experience, participate in, and witness by submitting to us an example of a positive message – the kind they have received, they would like to receive, or they would like to give to someone else. With these messages (we have collected a couple hundred so far) we are creating online and print calendars to then give back to Toronto youth that are made up of one positive message a day from another young person in the city. Youth, teachers, and youth workers will then be able to receive these messages via Facebook or Twitter, or in a print calendar.
At the end of each presentation, participants are invited to record any feedback or impacts the presentations had on them. This is some of what they have shared with us:
- “I feel relieved that I can talk to people I’ve never met and feel accepted. I feel a lot more confident now.” - participant, Girls Group at Women’s Habitat
- “You guys are the fifth group like this the teachers have brought in this year to talk to us about bullying and discrimination and stuff, but you’re the only ones I felt like I could come up to and talk to after.” – student, West End Alternative High School
- “I feel less alone; less different, feeling like not being the only one.” – student, York Humber High School
- “I feel more accepting and open. Realized that there is more to everyone than what you see.” – student, Ursula Franklin Academy
- “[I will] try to instill better thoughts in myself. Try harder to believe in myself.” – participant, Jessie’s Centre for Teenagers
We are currently booking presentations in youth groups over the summer, developing materials with the messages we’ve received so far to launch in September, and applying for additional funding to continue the presentations throughout the fall.
If you have any questions, or would like to book a free presentation, please email Ainsley Brittain at firstname.lastname@example.org
***UPDATE*** We received a small pocket of funding from TD and will be doing another short round of workshops this Winter/Spring 2013!
***UPDATE*** The Peer Educators created a gorgeous art-calendar inspired by positive message submissions. The free ones are all gone, but some are still available for purchase here: http://www.springtideresources.org/blog/mymsg-2013-calendars-sale