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Our Reality: Teen Parents Telling Their Own Stories

As I waste my life on Twitter, quite a few Kickstarter projects flow through my stream.  Most of them are by celebrities with established fanbases, or people creating games or art which is laudable to be sure, but few have piqued my attention like that of Our Reality, a new project helping teen mothers create their own media which is being put together by blogger Avital Norman Nathman and Carrie Nelson.  You may remember Avital from such things as her blogging at The Mamafesto, her writing for Ms. Magazine, The Frisky and many others.

I recently emailed Avital a few questions to talk some more about the project.

Emily:  So, tell us about the Our Reality project, how did it come about?

Avital Norman Nathman:  Our Reality came about during my time volunteering at The Care Center, an alternative education program in Holyoke MA that helps young mothers work toward their GED or high school diploma, as well as start earning college credit. I’ve spent over two years working with these young mothers, and in addition to all the school work that we do, we tend to chat – a bunch. Over the years they’ve continuously mentioned their annoyance and disgust with reality programs like Teen Mom or 16 & Pregnant. The young women I work with don’t see themselves represented at all in these shows, which is a shame. It’s especially problematic when these shows tend to exploit and sensationalize teen and young parents for ratings. Their stories are edited in a way that further promotes the stigma already associated with teen parents, all in the name of entertainment. Unfortunately, that “entertainment” results in cover articles like this one – from this week’s OK! Magazine.

E.M:  What are you guys planning on doing?

One glaring omission in these reality shows is that none of the young mothers portrayed are women of color, which doesn’t accurately reflect the stats when it comes to young parents. There are very few alternative platforms being offered to young mothers of color to share their stories, their realities. We hope that we can change that with Our Reality. One big aspect of our project is a writing workshop where the students will learn about personal narrative and will write their own stories that will help guide the webseries we’ll produce. There will be no editing for entertainment going on, just a realistic look into the lives of these young women as they work toward securing a successful future through education.

E.M:  How can we help get this project off the ground?

A.N.N:  Right now we’re crowd-sourcing to get our first few videos off the ground. We need funds to rent the filming equipment, pay our editor, and to get our website up and running. Our website will also include blog posts from the young mothers in the personal narrative course as well as resource links to other organizations and sites also committed to helping reduce the stigma of teen parenthood, and who provide other platforms for young parents to share their voices (through writing, etc…). We have less than 2 weeks left in our Indiegogo campaign and $6500 left to raise, but we know we can do it. We have some amazing contribution perks for folks that donate, but more importantly, those who contribute will get to be part of a push back to the narrative that mainstream media is presenting when it comes to teen parents.

E.M:  That sounds wonderful and much needed.  Anything left to add?

A.N.N:  Not much that I can think of.  Carrie & I created a video that otherwise it sums up why we want to do this.

E.M:  Excellent.  Thanks for your time and good luck with the project.

And then I made a cup of tea.