PRYDE at RYSE: Chosen Family & Black Queer Community

This past Pryde month at RYSE, we’re thrilled to share so much exciting content from some of our youth members, including:

  • An Interview with RYSE member Ja’Shawna Chaney (AKA Anii) on the importance of chosen family

  • A Discussion between Isaiah Grant (RYSE Video Fellow) and Aja Lenae Johnson (Music & Performing Arts Coordinator) on creating space to express yourself as a Queer Black person

  • A Music Video about Pride Month at RYSE, directed by Gemikia Henderson (Video Production Coordinator) and Azaria Kates (AMP Internship Alum)

  • An Original Love Poem “Honey” by RYSE member, Jermila McElroy

The Staff & Youth Members of RYSE

“You can see a person. But like your chosen family... you see it, you feel it. Ya’ll connected.”
— Isaiah Grant

Ja’Shawna Chaney,
on the importance of Chosen Family

“It doesn’t matter what race you are, there are parents that will not accept you. There are people who will not like it and I think that’s the main reason why they do Pride […] There’s nowhere to turn and I feel like the only way to turn is when you’re around people that’s in your shoes as well... My chosen family means a lot because most of the people I know are like me: they like girls. There might be a couple of them that’s straight, but they still support me. They still support the other people thats in our [Queer] family and they mean a lot to me, and that’s very important to me.”

“We need people to be there for us. There’s people who think about suicide. They think they’re the only ones in this world. They bash themselves because of their parents, or other people bash them for being them.”
— Ja'Shawna Chaney

Isaiah Grant,
on growing up Black and Queer in Richmond

“It was very difficult to be myself, to show my true self to my family without them lookin’ at me crazy, or with my family feelin’ like I’m not accepted to them and I have to fit their standards of what should be the perfect son and boy. In my family if you cry, you cry. But don’t cry for unnecessary things. […] Growing up in a Black family or an area like Richmond, not many people were very accepting of the LGBTQ [community] or just being themself, but as I got older, I tend to notice most of my friends that were out and about like being LGBTQ. Everybody was cool with them. And I’m just like, a few minutes ago people didn’t care and now people are cool with it. And it’s a big change, and I’m happy about that, I really am. Like I’m happy that people are really accepting people for who them are and love is love no matter what.”

Listen to the full interview to the left.


Jermila McElroy
Honey, a Love Poem

I love the way you portray honey
Your smooth glow,
& the color of your eyes,
Sweet honey
Does nothing but hypnotize
Got me reading you
Tryna analyze your prize 
Over here
about our relationship I’m about to jeopardize 
Thinking of the wrong things
Hoping our love never dies 
Replaying some of our memories,
Going back in time, counterclockwise 
Bc it’s crazy how time flies,
Sweet sweet honey
Stick to me like glue 
Let me break down your brick wall
& show you something brand new
Lets talk about the future
Big house 
A dog
A kid or two 
Maybe a few 
If only you knew honey
If only you knew
You’re the greatest reflection of perfection 
That’s your profession
The reason why I got an obsession
Hooked on you like a drug
But love was your injection
That’s my confession 
Honey baby, sweet Honey,
Never stop dripping

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RYSE Commons Groundbreaking
Friday, September 6th from 2 - 4 PM

We’re celebrating closing with Opportunity Fund,  in partnership with Raza Development Fund, Community Vision, and U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation, for a $11MM loan to finance RYSE Commons! Learn more here.

Please save the date for our official groundbreaking ceremony, as we begin to build the vision led by young people. Sign up to receive an invitation→


Night Out for Safety and Liberation 2019
Tuesday, August 6th from 5 - 8 PM

Join the RYSE Center in reclaiming safety and looking beyond fear, punishment, policing, and incarceration. Come break bread, connect with neighbors, friends, and family, and join the conversation as we envision safety as love for and investment in our roots, our people, our power! Let’s build community solutions from the grassroots up!

June at RYSE

This past month, RYSE organized and hosted Rhythms & Rainbows, a dance party for LGBTQIA+ youth and their allies that included art activities and a talent show. Rhythms & Rainbows closed a week full of workshops including tie-dyeing pride flags, jewelry and flower crown making, video production pop-ups, self care activities, and more.

RYSE youth organizers also researched to put on RYCHELLA, a youth-led concert that adds a critical lens to the immediate and long-term impacts of Coachella on the Central Valley. Our interns worked with community members who were raised, lived, and worked in the valley to highlight how Coachella affects housing and jobs, agriculture and the environment, and more. RYCHELLA was a transformative reframing of Coachella, one that supports LGBTQ+ folx, local artists, and invests in community and local vendors.

We also acknowledged and celebrated all of our young people, and their determination and hard work as they finished another school year. Check out the photo gallery to the right for photos from these events, and so much more!