Inspiration For The #VAForThePeople Zine
These past few months I have spent my time volunteering with Something In The Water’s #VAForThePeople creative team on a nonpartisan community engagement and GOTV effort rooted in Virginia. Two of my sisters went to college in VA (shoutout Hampton U.), and after getting an opportunity to collaborate with their team during the Something In The Water Festival on a public health initiative with the VA Department of Health Equity, I came to discover a lot more about the power of the VA community. I also learned why Pharrell returned home bringing his festival to his hometown of Virginia Beach after traveling the globe making music.
One of the things the #VAForThePeople team spent a lot of time thinking through, like many organizations during election season, has been the challenge of navigating low youth voter engagement. We wanted to center particular experiences of youth who were apathetic towards the voting process, in order to unpack the true barriers to feeling like their voices wouldn’t matter at the ballot box.
One young Black woman’s experience in particular stayed with us as a team member recounted the conversations the both of them had over several weeks to unpack this understanding, and see ways we might use creative resources and avenues to amplify local VA voices.
So when we were searching for ideas, my mind went to my friend Che Morales. Che is an incredible curator from Long Beach California who over the course of his career has helped develop interactive art installations for a range of talented artists including Shantell Martin, Shepard Fairey, and many others. A lot of our personal conversations have centered on youth, community, and exposure to art. Che noticed when COVID hit, many public art galleries were impacted. In response, several turned to putting shows online. But eventually, he told me many of the user experiences felt the same. Art on wall, is now art on your screen. He felt there was a greater opportunity to tell the stories behind the art, make the experience interactive, and fun. Along with his creative partner Sarah, they put their heads together and the Online Gallery (the OG) was born. A unique interactive zine that gave a rarely seen look into the minds of the artists sharing their work through sights, sounds, and design.
I brought this case study to our team in an effort to explore a very unique challenge in messaging: time. After our team member spent weeks engaging a potential (Gen Z) voter who happened to reach out to her after the Something In The Water Festival, our team member spent weeks engaging and listening. When she was able to get her to discover the power of her vote, especially as a young Black woman with brilliant ideas, there was a major political event that hit Twitter, and some of her friends were back to feeling their vote wouldn’t be considered.
So how do you try and address getting info and perspectives out with only a short time horizon to election day? My mind went to the OG. The team was already thinking about a zine style concept, and there were synergies here. We know why shareable content matters. But the things I appreciate about content might be subjective, meaning I notice something my friends don’t. So what if we had an experience that was interactive, informative, design centered, and hyper local? Something that increases engagement, but allows people to interact differently with the content that’s meaningful to them?
The #VAForThePeople ZINE was born. A special election edition collaboration with the team at The OG. We talked with Gen Z Virginia locals, with individuals like Paul Taylor who had been justice engaged and returned home to launch an organization to help youth stay out of the system. We talked to Dr. Sarita McCoy Gregory, Chair of the Poli Sci Dept at Hampton U about the Voting Rights Act, and how it has been misinterpreted. We talked to Lanijah, a student who shared her story of signing up for a mail in ballot, only to have sent it back too late so her vote wasn’t counted, and learning what to do for her next election [this one]. We interviewed Teens With A Purpose about the community initiatives they lead and what they’ve learned about community building.
We share these stories to consider what might be re-imagined when Virginians come together to see the ways they’re engaged in their communities, and how to exercise that power this election cycle, and beyond. Humans, neighbors, organizers, OTHERS, who paint a picture of a commonwealth. A commonwealth whose common wealth is humanity, around the issues that impact us all.
Hope you enjoy. Hope you share (whether in VA, or not)…
Introducing: #VAForThePeople Zine (click link)
Two Up, Two Down. With Love.