Antonio Martinez Gray
Hi, my name is Antonio Martinez Gray, which means old gray haired lady of praise! For entire 22 years of living I’ve been told that I am both wise beyond my years and have a very old soul. I have been part of YEPP for about four months now, and its been one of the most uplifting and invigorating experiences of my life. It has really given me the urge and flare to ascend beyond the plethora of stigmas that I, as an African American male, who is also part of the LGBT community, face on the daily. Currently I am participating in two paid internships, which both center around my passion of wanting to become a social worker. At one internship through the Broadway Youth Center known, as Peer Advocacy, I work to create safe space for LBGTQA youth to gather and utilize resources to combat homelessness, unemployment, health troubles etc. I am also working with a cohort of five other youth through the program of Youth Leadership Academy, at the Center On Halsted. There we are striving to connect the community of LBGTQA youth with the older generation in hopes of creating peace and unity amongst each other in order to strengthen ourselves through those communal bonds. In the past I have crafted and facilitated numerous workshops through Youth Service Project. I don’t just want to be a run of the mill social worker who asks simplistic and rather patronizing questions, like, ‘How are you feeling?’. My ultimate goal is the complete reconstruction of what social work is, and what is embodies. Being an individual who has suffered and overcome sexual and verbal abuses coupled with three years of homelessness, I understand firsthand how these traumas directly affect our communities as a whole, each covering several pressing issues that effect youth both emotionally and professionally. I have also helped in the orchestration of a now annual community cook out where togetherness and unity are celebrated amongst the community. It’s been running for about three years now. I’ve also done cleaning and landscape rejuvenation through YSP. I want to be a unifying force through my work. I love to write, it has been the greatest physical manifestation of my healing and growth and with it I’m aspiring to take myself and my community to newer and more solidified heights. I’m striving to do my part in abolishing oppression and creating space for individuality to be prominent. First step, GED, then college. I want to include truth, self-love, and acceptance in my work.