Storytelling is the root of the Matthew Shepard Foundation. After the death of her son, Judy Shepard set out to ensure no other family would endure what she and her family did—losing a loved one to senseless hate and violence. By sharing her and Matt’s story, Judy encouraged others to share their own. Judy helped find a voice for those who, in a world where so many are silenced by fear, had never been told they should be loved, protected and equal.
In 2016, there are still those who live without this knowledge; that their lives matter, that their stories can be told. The internet and expansion of digital media has opened a lot of doors for the underrepresented, including the Foundation’s own youth site MatthewsPlace.com. But still today, it is not enough.
This gap in representation is what inspired journalist Jose Antonio Vargas—with credits including Define American, “Documented” and “White People”—to launch #EmergingUS, a new digital news platform that will “produce original videos, essays, articles, podcasts, photo/slideshows all about the emerging American identity.” As a veteran journalist and an undocumented immigrant, Vargas is exploring the question Who are we, and who are we becoming?
The stories Vargas will capture with #EmergingUS is vital to our nation’s progress. Already in this election year we’ve heard endless rants of bigotry, ignorance and hatred toward immigrants from all corners of the world; of different cultures, religions and identities. We cannot afford to let ignorance and hate drown out the voices of America’s immigrants. We cannot endure continued systematic oppression.
Vargas writes: “#EmergingUS is a news organization dedicated to you, to us, the emerging American identity. An emerging America where the racial conversation is beyond Black-and-White and includes Latinos, Asians, biracial and multiethnic people. An emerging America where the stories of immigrants, documented and undocumented, are told humanely and with nuance and context. An emerging America that resists stereotypical categorizations and superficial reportage. An emerging America that is far from simple–in many parts of the country, White Americans are an emerging racial minority, a topic that #EmergingUS will cover extensively.”