Poetry, artwork and mental health advice are all part of a new self-published online magazine, or "zine" created by Pittsburgh-area Black and brown LGBTQ youth. Project Silk, a non-clinical community health and recreation space for LGBTQIA youth of color, recently launched The Silk Worm to help keep the community connected.
“A lot of times people don’t have anyone to talk to or people have questions that they don’t necessarily have a resource to ask,” said Michael Brookins, Project Silk’s community health specialist, who also goes by Miguel Bell. “And the zine gives them a chance to be able to relate to somebody.”
Project Silk, which has been holding virtual sexual health education courses and group meet-ups due to the pandemic, typically provides a physical safe space for LGBTQ+ Black and brown young people. Program director Jessica Burdick said the group’s been connecting individuals to resources for housing, education and employment. They’ve altered their offerings slightly due to COVID-19, but still conduct services like HIV testing by appointment.
Gonzalo Bird, Project Silk community support specialist, said the zine was a reaction to people feeling isolated. The Silk Worm, Bird said, accepts original work and includes conversations about trauma and healing.
“We’re open to anything, we’re sort of hoping to design the zine as a way to reflect what the community’s up to and provide support,” Bird said.
According to a 2020 study by the LGBTQ suicide prevention group The Trevor Project, 40% of young LGBTQ individuals have considered suicide in the last year. The zine’s first edition came out shortly before the holiday season in December, which Bird said can be a stressful time for LGBTQ people whose families might not accept them, or might not know they’re out.
“We made sure to include narratives around mental health resources,” Bird said. “The zine is going to have a theme that represents something that is sort of salient to the community, but it's going to be kind of built by our contributors.”
More information can be found on Project Silk’s Facebook page.
*This story has been updated to correct the name and title of Brookins, and the description of Project Silk.