In honor of WorldPride and the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, which kicked off the modern gay-rights movement, DKNY is partnering with the Hetrick-Martin Institute (HMI), America’s oldest and largest LGBT youth services organization. The Daily Summer talked to DonChristian Jones, a teaching artist in HMI’s Music Masters program, to find out more about the organization and the essential work they do.
HMI is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. Why is the work you do still so important?
While LGBT rights and protections have come a long way since HMI was founded, there are still so many young people who vitally need the services we offer. Whether it’s a hot meal, a shower, and counseling from a mental health professional, or just a fun place to hang out, meet friends, and work on your art, the services we offer make a profound difference in the lives of underserved LGBT young people.
What is the Music Masters program?
Music Masters was founded around the overwhelming youth-led desire to practice, perform, and produce through music. In all the youth spaces I’ve traversed over the years, music has always been the most evident and efficient means of engagement.
What is your role within the Music Masters program at HMI?
As a facilitator, I provide the space for young people to engage with music, whether that be through performance, songwriting, production, or critical music theory. We practice, cypher, make beats, record. For me, it’s imperative that the space be free from judgment, safe and brave, as participants allow for their own creative processes. There’s no wrong way to make music, so it’s simply a matter of helping them find their own voice.
Tell us about your partnership with DKNY.
HMI began working with DKNY in fall 2018. The idea of doing a Pride campaign for June 2019 was introduced, with the concept and creative being led by HMI’s young people. Throughout the fall and winter, DKNY and HMI worked to outline the partnership, and developed a campaign that was truly representative of HMI’s LGBT young people and its mission, as well as DKNY’s brand and audience. DKNY and its staff have been and continue to be engaging and active in volunteer opportunities, donating goods to HMI’s pantry program and attending events and fund-raisers. DKNY’s parent company, G-III, has been a longtime supporter of HMI and has been involved with the organization since 2006.
What’s the best way for people to get involved in the work HMI is doing?
There are many ways that people can get involved with HMI! There are volunteer opportunities for both individuals or corporate/community groups — from mock interviews, to tutoring, to serving dinner to our young people. There are also a number of youth programs, workshops, panels, and activities that happen throughout the year for holidays, awareness days, etc. Individuals and groups can also lead fund-raising campaigns on social media, initiate a volunteer match grant at work, if applicable, or donate goods to HMI’s pantry program.
WorldPride is taking place in New York City for the first time this year to mark the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising and the beginning of the modern gay-rights movement. What does “gay pride” mean in 2019?
WorldPride is hugely significant to us and our broader community, as it is emblematic of New York’s role in the movement and its history. The modern-day movement, I believe, has shifted in scope from one of “gay rights and liberation” to one of reverence for the intersectional realities and pioneers of the movement.
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Why are Pride Month and the Pride parade important in 2019?
Something we see all the time with our youth is that representation matters. Seeing stories that mirror yours, seeing people who look or identify like you, can be a life-changing experience. And being able to walk down the street as your true and authentic self, in a world that often tries to put you down and dim that light, to be able to walk proudly in front of millions of people who are cheering for you, can really make you feel like part of a community. Like you are seen.
What sort of special programming does HMI have planned to celebrate Pride and the 50th anniversary of Stonewall?
Youth Pride Fest, we march and table at every borough Pride; we throw our School’s Out fund-raiser, as well as month-long special programming on-site. And, of course, we’ll have a float in the Pride parade. Come out and cheer on our young people!
What do the next 40 years look like for HMI?
The foundation of HMI’s strategic direction is to package, evaluate, and disseminate our best practice for LGBT youth services. The ultimate objective is to change the national landscape of youth services to be safe, inclusive, and affirming for LGBT youth.
DKNY Is Celebrating Pride With Friends!
To celebrate WorldPride and the launch of its Pride capsule collection, DKNY is partnering with Big Gay Ice Cream to create a custom, co-branded ice cream sandwich. The sweet treat will be sold for two weeks during Pride Month at all of Big Gay Ice Cream’s New York City locations, with a portion of the proceeds going to the Hetrick-Martin Institute.
DKNY also has big plans for the WorldPride March on Sunday, June 30! They’ve secured a double-decker bus to pick up and drop off passengers along the parade route. The bus will be wrapped in a repeating rainbow DKNY logo with a DJ booth on the top level and a street team to hand out Big Gay Ice Cream and pride-themed temporary tattoos and bandanas to riders and passing pedestrians. Check out pieces from DKNY’s Pride collection below!
Read the complete new issue of The Daily Summer below.