Positive images and role models elude Black LGBT youth. National Youth Pride Services (NYPS), which created the app, surveyed more than 9,000 young people about year ago. Results revealed they neither see good role models in real time nor positive images in the media. Now, there's an app for that.
"It does one thing that [the] 'It Gets Better' [campaign] cannot do," Frank Walker said. "The app allows them not to just hear the message. They get see people from their neighborhoods and learn from people."
It provides 24-hour LGBT programming, including documentaries, movies, children's shows and music. It targets the 18-30 demographic. The app can be downloaded from a smartphone or tablet at youthpride.conduitapps.com .
"It … helps reach youth rural, small towns or [those] in the closet," Walker said.
Walker stressed all the programming is affirming. There's not a "fire-and-brimstone" message to be heard. The app's TV channel is one of 26 different features. Broadcasts include documentaries, movies, music and children's programming. The TV channel is the most popular.
YPC Entertainment will manage television and radio stations for the new app. Each station, of course, will provide original content for Apple and Android users alike, targeting Black LGBT youth, ages 18-24. The channel aims to be portal for "affirming" programming 24 hours a day, according to NYPS.
A program guide is available at ypcentertainment.wordpress.com .
College students involved with NYPS help develop some of the content, while working with Mobile by Conduit to publish that content. The app can be accessed on devices compatible with Android, Apple and Windows Phone operating systems.
"It really helps start their programming," Walker said. "It's for youth by youth."
Other features include a gay youth center and fraternity/sorority locators as well as politics, religion and shopping portals. However, the TV channel is the most valuable, according to Walker. After all, it "draws people in."
The app has been pushing Chicago-based shows already in production. Bawn Media's reality show, "What's The Function?," which features 4 or 5 friends, has become one of the app's highest rated programs. Blake Martin Productions brings live fashion shows featuring celebrities, while Chicago-based openly-gay rappers, Freaky Boiz, get exposure too.
Anthony Newsome, Bawn Media founder and CEO, jumped at the chance to get involved, when Walker approached him. Newsome hopes the app and his programming sends Black gay youth one valuable message.
"Don't have a problem being yourself," Newsome said.
In addition to producing "What's The Function?," which begins its third season in May, Bawn Media also produces "Drama Queens," "Finding Me: The Series" and "In The Circle." All those shows were started and remain based in New York City.
However, Bawn Media is preparing to bring "Parade" to Chicago. Newsome described the Windy City-based show as a mixture of Glee, Smash and Scandal. Casting is slated to begin soon. Aside from creating original Web series, Bawn Media produces gay musicians, including R & B pop artist Brentley.
Remembering his younger years prompted Blake Martin of Blake Martin Productions to get involved.
"I wanted to become part of the app, because I remember growing up," Martin said. "There was not a lot of options for me. I hope the youth can get positive role models from [the app]. You can be successful. You can be anything you want."
His productions include the all-male XY fashion show, featuring creations from Calvin Klein, AussieBum, Andrew Christian as well as Chicago designers. America's Next Model's Bianca Golden hosted the Feb. 2012 show, while Shangela of RuPaul's Drag Race hosted iCandy in July. Actor Brian White hosted the all-male Black Ice fashion show. Martin stressed the app's best feature.
"What I love about the app is that it shows people from all parts of life," he said.
NYPS focuses on serving the nation's Black LGBT youth. The non-profit organization brings top youth leaders, under age 26, together with allies, supporters and friends. YPS members travel the country, taking part conferences and events. Those members also serve on national and regional boards as well as earning accoladesnationally and internationally.
NYPS programs include PULSE (for HIV-positive youth), Code Red (viral/social marketing program for models, dancers, singers and athletes), Youth Leaders (for activists, spoken-word artists, photographers, entrepreneurs and young leaders), BOMANI (for youth in the military), Youth With Disabilities and Ambassadors (national youth leadership development). YPS is geared toward youth with local experience with social justice-based organizations.
For more information, visit www.youthprideservices.wordpress.com . To apply for membership, contact NYPS at email@example.com . It's operated under Public Health Institute of Metro Chicago's fiscal direction, making all donations tax-deductible.