Meet Samantha Box
Friday, Nov. 19
during our event “Live from Lock One:
A Night Focusing on Youth”
*This event is a fund-raiser for Youth Media Sanctuary!
5:30 Artist Reception and Potluck
6:30 LGBTQ Human Rights Vigil
7:00 Event Intrductions and Hip Hop Concert
Samantha Box, a photographer based in New York City, was born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1977. Having worked for many years in the media – first at the New York Post, a daily newspaper, and later at Contact Press Images, an international photojournalism agency – she decided to attend the International Center of Photography in 2005, where she pursued a certificate in Photojournalism and Documentary Studies.
For the past 4 years, she has dedicated herself to photographing homeless lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth in New York City. Ms. Box was selected for inclusion into the Eddie Adams Workshop in 2009, and was named a 2010 Fellow in Photography from the New York Foundation for the Arts, based on her work on this issue. “Invisible: The Crisis of LGBT Youth Homelessness” has been recognized by OSI’s Moving Walls Project, En Foco, and Anthropographia and has been published in The Kicked Out Anthology, The Raw File and 100Eyes Magazine.
More about Invisible: The crisis of LGBT Youth Homelessness
According to a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimate, the count of homeless and runaway youth ranges from 575,000 to 1.6 million per year. Out of that number, it is conservatively estimated that between 20 and 40 percent identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT). Given that between 3 and 5 percent of the American population identifies as LGBT, the figures make it starkly clear: across America, in its major cities, and suburban and rural counties, a disproportionate share of the tragedy of youth homelessness falls on the backs of LGBT young people.
Mostly poor and minority, many of these young people come from homes marred by instability, conflict, abuse, neglect, or parental drug use. In many cases, coming out as LGBT was the final factor that forced these young adults out of their homes: one-third were assaulted by a family member upon revealing their sexual orientation or gender identity, and over a quarter were kicked out of their homes outright. Having experienced this violent rejection at home, in church or school, or, in some cases, in foster care, many LGBT youth turn to the street, and its grim realities. Too often, sex work and survival crime, drug abuse and mental illness become a part of everyday life, as animosity towards their sexual orientation or gender expression at mainstream shelters and programs effectively bars them from receiving the meager services available to homeless youth, services that might take them towards stability. By being homeless in a society that discriminates against LGBT people, these young people have been rejected twice: first by their homes, families and communities, and then by the services and systems that are supposed to help and protect them. Caught in the intersection of race, poverty, gender expression and sexuality, these young adults fight to find their way through a society that chooses not to see or help them.
In 2005, disturbed by the silence surrounding this issue and seeking to put a face on this little-known crisis, I began photographing the residents of Sylvia’s Place (MCCNY Homeless Youth Services: Sylvia’s Place), New York City’s only emergency shelter for homeless LGBT youth; its 30 beds comprise over half of the shelter space specifically designated for the upwards of 8,000 homeless young LGBT people in New York City. Using the shelter as a “home base”, I have spent countless hours with these young people, bearing witness to hidden and intimate aspects of their existence: working as a prostitute on “the stroll”; crying at the grave of the mother that left them too soon; kissing their new boyfriend; spending a last Mother’s Day with children that they will never see again; moments of introspection. By eschewing exploitative visual stereotypes of homelessness, youth, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and especially gender non-conformity, I believe that these images truthfully show the urgency of their lives.
In a perfect world, these young people would not be ignored: we would all be aware, not only of their daily struggles, but also of the hope that they have for their future selves. As this project continues, it is my hope that this work will bring awareness to the crisis of LGBT youth homelessness, and thus bring about positive change in the lives of this neglected population.
The Sanctuary for Independent Media is a telecommunications production facility dedicated to community media arts, located in an historic former church at 3361 6th Avenue in north Troy, NY. The Sanctuary hosts screening, production and performance facilities, training in media production and a meeting space for artists, activists and independent media makers of all kinds. Call (518) 272-2390, email [email protected], or visit www.MediaSanctuary.org for directions and more information.