Take 5 is a feature in which we chat with someone who's making waves or are related to an upcoming event.
This issue, we talk with Jaime Randle, co-founder of the Something Awesome Project, which is offering a LGBTQ-focused social network online, while bringing people together offline. The goal is a positive network for community members and their allies to share their experiences and knowledge. Jaime spoke with Associate Editor Joshua O'Connell about the project, its goals and what's ahead.
Q. What is the Something Awesome project?
A. The Something Awesome Project is an organization that provides a safe and supportive online and offline space for the LGBTQ community and our allies. Online, you'll find a dynamic social network where members (membership is free) enjoy blogging, discussions in the forums, sharing photos and videos, swapping advice and more. Offline, we plan exciting events to bring youth and adults in the LGBTQ community together in an environment that is fun, enriching and without expectations. We want people to enjoy themselves and connect with people that are like them and share their experiences. In the future, our offline offerings will include a mentoring program that will pair youth with a positive LGBTQ role model. The program will serve to empower LGBTQ youth while bridging the gap between younger and older generations.
Q. How did the idea come about?
Jes and I initially wanted to plan events for the 21+ LGBTQ community--enriching events that appealed to our community's whole life and not just the night life. By happenstance, we met with Newtown High School's Gay/Straight Alliance and we were so moved and motivated by the students' desire to connect with other gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, transgender, questioning and ally students that we immediately shifted our focus. Also around that time, there was a devastating flux of suicides by gay (or perceived-to-be-gay) young people and Jes and I had something of an epiphany; we realized that we could turn our lifelong passion for social welfare, our commitment to the LGBTQ community and our interest in showing people a good time into something wonderful.
Q. How does Something Awesome differ from social networks like Facebook?
A. We cater to the LGBTQ community and have created a marriage between peoples' online and offline worlds. Our newest addition to the site is FAQ: Frequently Asking Queers--it is an interactive video advice forum where people can come with their questions and concerns and receive answers and advice via videos created by other members. Myspace doesn't have that! Our motivation to start FAQ came from wanting to push the It Gets Better videos a little further. Young people certainly find solace in the fact that it will get better for them, but we wanted to be able to give them real advice and experiences that they can use now.
Unlike many social networks, The Something Awesome Project is about so much more than just social networking--it is about community, connections, education, empowerment, enrichment, expression and entertainment. Many people, especially in smaller towns, do not have access to a positive and supportive community of LGBTQ people and we hope to provide that online and offline.
Q. What will people find today when they visit somethingawesome.org?
A. Connections and interaction between members from all over the world. Discussions on forums; thoughts, poetry and experiences in members' blogs; member photos and videos; video advice on FAQ. We are motivated to continue bringing new and exciting content, so our members can look forward to LGBTQ news, entertainment, articles and incredible resources.
Q. When people sign up, what do you hope they'll do?
A. We hope they'll join in on conversations, start their own discussions, connect with people in their area and around the world, ask questions and contribute their wisdom to FAQ and check out listings of the upcoming events we plan!
Q. Are you limiting the geographic scope of Something Awesome initially, or are you aiming for a worldwide audience?
A. We want to reach every corner of the globe! Since that may not be physically feasible for quite some time, we hope to reach as many people as we can through our online medium. We hope to continue to grow our online offerings so we can be a trusted resource as well as a place for entertainment for people all over this planet! We would even love to offer online mentoring for those youth that need guidance but can't find it where they are.
Q. You recently held a launch party/fundraiser. Can you tell us a little about it and how it went?
A. That launch party was an incredible testament to how many people, gay or straight, support our community and support what we're doing with The SAP. We had over 100 wonderful guests in attendance at Two Steps Downtown Grille in Danbury where we rented the top floor. There were raffle prizes from over 30 local and corporate businesses, drag queen and drag king performances, an incredible all-female cover band called That I Am, a DJ, and delicious food. It was magical and it was something of a coming out party, introducing the community to The SAP, showing our old and new friends a great time and raising money to propel us forward.
Q. What is your hope for the future of Something Awesome?
A. We hope to raise enough money and support to open a home for The SAP. We have our place on the web, but we are driven to open a multi-purpose building to house our offline offerings. This space will be home to a no-expectations coffee shop/cafe and performance venue where people will be encouraged to come to hang out, connect with others and share their talents. Further, it will be home to offices, meeting spaces and a computer lab for the use of staff, volunteers, mentor pairs and the whole community. We want to be a place where our LGBTQ youth and adults can come to be themselves, be celebrated, find guidance, share their wisdoms and connect with others.
To learn more about the Something Awesome Project or to register on the site, visit www.somethingawesome.org.
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