"What does a community without violence mean to us?"
The prompt is written across a two-page spread. Answers displayed in thought bubbles beneath it represent the visions of San Luis Obispo County teens.
"A safe space, regardless of gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, race, ability, or background," one reads.
"Violence is responded to by community members and we take care of each other," another says.
- Image Courtesy Of Lumina Alliance
- TEEN CREATIONS A small team of San Luis Obispo youth recently released a 32-page zine (pictured) focused on healthy relationships. View it at heyzine.com/flip-book/2ee869274a.
It's just one section in a much larger zine (a DIY-style magazine) created and designed by local youth and recently published ahead of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
The 32-page publication, Working Toward a Violence Free Community, weaves together tips, thoughts, tools, art, and prompts, which touch on subjects like consent, boundaries, healthy relationships, helping friends in trouble, and standing up to violence when you see it.
"We all got together and wrote down a bunch of ideas we had about pages, mostly concepts to talk about specifically," explained Kayla-Jade Cooper, a 17-year-old Arroyo Grande High School student and one of the zine's seven co-creators. "And we put them all in a spreadsheet and each of us got to kind of pick, 'I'd like to focus on this one and this one.' It's something we all worked really hard on."
Cooper and her peers made the zine while volunteering with Lumina Alliance—formerly RISE SLO and Stand Strong—for its Close to Home initiative, which undertakes community-based projects to raise awareness about intimate partner violence.
"Our whole premise of our group is we want to listen to what the community needs," said Arti Kothari, a prevention educator with Lumina Alliance. "We really try to hear our peers and other people in the community and figure out what's something that would be helpful."
This year's volunteers felt that a zine could channel messages of education and prevention, not just awareness. Lumina is reframing October as not just Domestic Violence Awareness Month, but Domestic Violence Action Month. And the zine's authors took the shift to heart.
"I think people are aware that sexual violence is happening, but it's not enough to just know what's going on," Cooper said. "When it comes to the best way to try to stop domestic violence, it's prevention and education for people to stay safe and to also—if they see something, how to handle that situation and stop it from happening."
Working Toward a Violence Free Community enlightens and educates through its evocative artwork, its discussions around tough topics like consent and boundaries, and its simple but helpful guides on those topics: "Consent is FRIES! Freely given, Reversible, Informed, Enthusiastic, Specific/Sober."
"The youth did all of the writing, creating, designing, art—everything," Kothari said. "The art was actually sourced from students from SLO High School. It was a partnership with one of the art teachers."
Interspersed throughout the zine, the art pieces are unique meditations on the theme of sexual and domestic violence. A quote from the artist accompanies each piece.
One piece by 17-year-old Linnaea Marks features a photo of a purse with its contents spilled out. Overlaid in purple are drawings of all the items that women often carry to protect themselves, like mace and an emergency whistle.
"I wanted to show how much lighter that purse would be without sexual violence," Marks says in her quote.
Another, by 15-year-old Carmen Joines, shows two photos next to one another. In one, a person is grabbing another by the wrist; in the other, the person is holding the other's hand. The words "violence is not affection" are written across them.
"I created this piece to describe how in relationships people often misinterpret aggressive and violent acts as affection," Joines says. "I created it because people have a hard time recognizing it and breaking away from cycles of violence."
Working Toward a Violence Free Community is available online in both English and Spanish. Lumina has also distributed print copies to local cafes, like Kin Coffee Bar and Skipper's Brew Coffee House. Any person or organization interested in getting hard copies at no cost can email [email protected].
"So far it's had really good reception in the community," Kothari said.
Cooper said she hopes the zine can inspire conversations throughout SLO County about the subjects it tackles. And she hopes it sends a message to both youth and adults that her generation is committed to ending the cycles of intimate partner violence.
"We want to let people know that we as youth are paying attention and we see the things that are happening in our community," Cooper said. "It's important for other young people to see because we have a lot of potential and power when it comes to making change. All we have to do is just start." Δ
Assistant Editor Peter Johnson can be reached at [email protected].