C4 Innovations

Community & Behavioral Health | Recovery | Social Change

Call for Youth Leadership to Address Health Inequities

An episode of “Changing the Conversation” podcast

Nate Batiste and host Nastacia’ Moore share perspectives on engaging youth in addressing health inequities—especially youth of color and LGBTQIA+ youth.

October 26, 2020

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Erika Simon, Producer: [00:00] This episode is sponsored by Project Amp. Visit ProjectAmp4youth.com to learn more.

Nastacia’ Moore, Host: [00:07] Hello and welcome to Changing the Conversation. I’m your host, Nastacia’ Moore. Our topic today is a call for youth leadership focusing on elevating the voices of youths and young adults in addressing public health inequities and solutions to promote equity.

Nastacia’: [00:22] It is a pleasure to introduce my guest, Nate Batiste, calling in from Ruston, Louisiana. He is C4’s youth advisory board member and a senior psychology major at Louisiana Tech University. Nate, thank you so much for joining us today.

Nate Batiste, Guest: [00:41] Thank you so much for having me today, Nastacia’.

Nastacia’: [00:44] Let’s talk about why it’s essential to have youth voices and youth leadership in addressing public health issues affecting young people today. I’m talking especially about youth and young adults from communities of color.

Nate: [00:58] When I think of this, I think of two quotes that I’ve heard throughout my life. And the first one is, “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” by Mahatma Gandhi. And that’s because how can we expect the world to change and evolve around us if we aren’t willing to put that first step forward and start that change? Be that pebble that trickles down a mountain.

Nate: [01:23] As well as another one, “Nothing about us without us is for us.” And this one was told to me by Selena Moore. What it basically means to me is, how can I fully invest in a program or an organization that says it’s about youth, that says it’s primarily about me, but they don’t have anyone who looks, acts, or speaks just like I do?

Nastacia’: [01:51] I couldn’t agree with you more. And you know, Nate, there’s a lot of discussions about including young adults of color and how young adults of colors’ voices matter. So, how do you suggest that folks promote youth leadership and promote equity within the culture of youth?

Nate: [02:11] I believe that we need to allow youth to become more modernistic. We need them to use their voices, use their minds to help us bring it into the future, starting with social media. Most youth nowadays are on some type of platform that they reach out to their friends, peers, people they’ve never even met. That could be a good way to get the word out.

Nastacia’: [02:36] Mm, good point. Social media is huge. Social media looks a lot different than from my day. Let’s talk about what social media’s influence has been on risky behaviors from youth and young adults in your generation. What does that look like?

Nate: [02:52] What it looks like to me is all these celebrities, they’re always online posting some type of risky behavior, whether it is marijuana, alcohol, or having a quote-unquote “good time at a party.” But truly and honestly, it never tells you about the bad or negative side effects that those risky behaviors can truly have and how it affects different communities.

Nastacia’: [03:19] What communities do you think are affected the most, Nate?

Nate: [03:23] Truly and honestly, I believe it is the LGBT community, especially young adolescents, because nine times out of 10, a lot of them feel lost, some even lost their homes due to rejection of family members. So when they’re out in the world trying to discover who they are and lost to themselves, they’re always going to be more susceptible to these risky behaviors because they have no one there to help them, to guide them, to protect them.

Nastacia’: [03:54] You talk about risky behaviors, the influence of social media. Tell me a little bit about how we can prevent those risky behaviors from social media.

Nate: [04:03] In my opinion, it’s all about one simple step. And when I think of preventative, I’ll call it action. We have to put out the information, how can we expect anybody to prevent, to treat, to do anything if they don’t even know what they’re fighting against?

Nastacia’: [04:25] Would you say is working and what’s not working as it pertains to prevention of risky behaviors, health inequities. Are there any organizations that you would recommend folks look to?

Nate: [04:39] I truly believe that there is not enough organizations out there. There are a few, such as the School-Based Health Alliance, PFLAG, and this organization, C4. These organizations are always working, trying to put that youth voice out there, but it can’t all be on the shoulders of just these few organizations.

Nate: [05:03] And yes, there are a few that I haven’t mentioned, but there’s such a vast community that it isn’t reaching. We need to step up and try to break out our comfort zone and reach further.

Nastacia’: [05:19] You mentioned School-Based Health Alliance and HBCUs. For those folks who don’t know what HBCU stand for, that is Historically Black Colleges or Universities.

Nastacia’: [05:31] I want to follow up and ask you this. With looking to leaders such as the HBCUs and the School-Based Health Alliance, what role do these leaders play in changing the conversation about risk, youth, and race?

Nate: [05:49] What these organizations are doing right in these aspects are, they’re not afraid to start this conversation to put this out into the world, or to even go against the narrative and say, “Hey, this is important. This is underrepresented, and we need to confront it.” It isn’t something that we can push into the closet, it is something that’s here, it’s going to be here forever. And we just have to figure out a solution to this problem.

Nastacia’: [06:20] Absolutely. It’s not going away. It’s not going away anytime soon. So what do you recommend being the next steps? The very next steps in promoting youth engagement.

Nate: [06:31] The next steps that I would take would be, as I said earlier, and putting out that call to action, because we can’t take any steps if we don’t have anyone to take that step with us.

Nastacia’: [06:43] What is that call to action? What are you hoping that people do?

Nate: [06:48] What I mean by a call to action is for organizations as well as individuals to step up. So one of the many problems that I’ve mentioned previously is tokenism. And that means basically putting a youth or a young person inside of a meeting, but not allowing them to speak or taking that one person’s perspective and applying it to everyone. That’s like getting a pizza and every slice having different toppings. It might seem like it works, but it truly doesn’t. So one thing that we can do is try to make it more equitable for everyone. Instead of just having that one perspective, we can create boards or councils, or we can go out into the community, and we can get their opinions, as well as putting out the word over social media just as I mentioned earlier, with increasing the youth engagement within youth.

Nastacia’: [07:48] Nate, I want to switch gears. You mentioned you identify with the LGBTQ community. Youth who identify with the LGBTQ community may also have a really difficult time due to fear, discrimination, prejudice against them from family, friends, care providers. How does this impact a young person’s access to effective prevention, harm reduction, or treatment?

Nate: [08:16] So I’m going to step out for a second and talk about my own personal experiences. When I first discovered who I truly was, I didn’t know what I was, who I was. I didn’t even know where to start. I didn’t have any friends or family members who could possibly help me. I thought that my family was going to reject me, that I was never, ever going to find love, and I thought that my whole entire life had just been turned upside down.

Nate: [08:49] As I started researching, I truly discovered that there aren’t any truly big organizations that are there to provide information, to help youth. And I found it truly demeaning because as a part of this community, there was truly no help for me.

Nate: [09:10] As I’ve grown and gone through the years, I’ve discovered a little bit more about me. Now at this day, I can openly say that I’m a pansexual male, even though most people won’t understand what that truly means.

Nastacia’: [09:23] And what does that truly mean, for folks who don’t know? What does it mean to be pansexual?

Nate: [09:30] So what it means to be pansexual is that I don’t build relationships off of sexual attraction. I build them off of personalities, and if my personality and your personality can go together, if we quote-unquote “vibe.”

Nastacia’: [09:48] Nate, that’s helpful. You mentioned that there were no resources to real treatment or real prevention. Is that just overall treatment and services, or specifically there was no treatment and services for folks that look like you and me, folks of color?

Nate: [10:08] I truly believe is for people that look like you and me, folks of color, because there are a few organizations that are big and widely known, but truly and honestly, from state to state, from county to county, from parish to parish, there isn’t that much help for us. We are kind of left alone and that’s sort of, kind of why I feel like the African-American community sometimes can come together really strong because we have to depend on each other to help us through these difficult times.

Nastacia’: [10:45] Absolutely. And as one of those voices, and as one of those youth leaders, where has your role as a youth leader taking you?

Nate: [10:55] Me being a youth leader, it has allowed me to go so many places. It’s allowed me to travel across the US, meet different people and hear their stories and these actions and these stories that I’ve heard and that I’ve even brought back to my own community to share and to possibly intertwine, has helped me grow because I was only viewing my own perspectives instead of being equitable and trying to see it from everyone else’s perspective before I made my inference, before I made an assumption, before I started a project.

Nastacia’: [11:35] Hmm. So what’s ahead of you? We all want to know. What is there, what are we looking forward to when we think about Nate in the future?

Nate: [11:44] So with this and all the work that I’ve done in the past with these organizations, I hope to help bring down that wall around risky conversations, because truly and honestly, we only call it risky because we’re scared to start that conversation, and we are afraid of what it will lead to.

Nastacia’: [12:07] Tell us what it means to break down those walls. Tell us what it means to challenge folks, to have these types of conversations around equity and race equity in particular, and what could it possibly lead to?

Nate: [12:23] This reminds me of the quote that I hear all the time from motivational speakers, from professors, from friends and families. And that quote is, “If I can just reach one person, then I will be satisfied.” What I take away from this is that when you are completely passionate about something, you will make sure that your message is delivered. You will make sure that everyone understands, because when you’re trying to break down the walls, being conformative means being complicit. A wise woman once told me that.

Nate: [13:03] So by staying with the norms and straying away from these conversations, we are only just adding to that and teaching further generations that it’s okay not to speak up. It’s okay not to be different, just stay in line, put your head down, and the day will be over soon.

Nate: [13:28] But I truly believe it will turn the society upside down in a good way, because we won’t be so closed off to these conversations. We have to come together and admit that it’s okay to talk about your sexuality, to talk about health care. To talk about these things that we want to shove in boxes, put in the top of our closets and push it all the way back. It’s not just something to afraid of, anymore.

Nastacia’: [14:00] And to talk about race and to be uncomfortable, absolutely. Nate, thank you for bringing your voice to this conversation. Thank you for bringing your perspective and your lens to this conversation. We appreciate you. I look forward to your continuous leadership as you continue to elevate the voices of youth and young adults.

Nate: [14:26] Thank you so much, Nastacia’. It has truly been pleasure to be here with you today.

Nastacia’: [14:31] And to our listeners, thank you for listening. Join us next time on Changing the Conversation.

Erika: [14:37] Visit C4innovates.com and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn for more resources to grow your impact.

Erika: [14:44] Thank you for joining us. This episode is sponsored by Project Amp and was produced by Erica Simon and Christina Murphy. Our theme song was written and performed by Peter Hanlon. Join us next time on Changing the Conversation.

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