For the third panel at Saturday’s Teen Vogue Summit, three activists discussed distinct struggles that their communities face, and how to support them. Moderated by Teen Vogue Executive Editor Danielle Kwateng, the panel consisted of Truth Initiative Board Liaison Giana Darville, Reservation Dogs Actor and Filmmaker Devery Jacobs, and Women’s National Basketball Association MVP & Champion and WNBA President, Nneka Ogwumike.
Darville spoke about her work with Truth Initiative, focusing on the intersectionality between anti-Black racism and tobacco marketing. She explained that tobacco companies place more menthol cigarette ads in Black communities than white ones.
“These vulnerable communities have been targeted by tobacco marketing,” Darville said. “We help Black people really realize what’s being targeted at them.”
Darville continued that swift legislation against vaping demonstrated a stark difference in the attention given to issues affecting Black Americans compared to issues affecting white Americans, since “the overwhelming majority of nicotine vapers are caucasian males.”
Discussing her mission, Darville concluded that she aims to “give people the information that they need to make the choices that they really want to make.” Truth Initiative works to spread the truth about smoking, vaping, and nicotine. This includes information about the harms of tobacco ads disproportionately targeting Black communities.
Jacobs spent her time on the panel reflecting on her role in FX’s comedy-drama Reservation Dogs, articulating the need for Indigenous representation in media.
“The opportunity has been incredible and one that I hold with such a great sense of responsibility,” Jacobs said. “It was a show by us, for us.”
Reservation Dogs follows four Indigenous teenagers living in rural Oklahoma who go to great lengths to try to get to California, a place they see as mysterious and fantastical. The show tackles issues involving mental health and suicide, prevalent in native communities.
“Talking about the issue of suicide through Reservation Dogs, it was one that, in our native way, we dealt with through humor,” Jacobs said. “Our sense of community is our sense of humor and our ability to lean on each other.”
Beyond representation in media like Reservation Dogs, Jacobs shared that her community’s mental health crisis could be mitigated by attempts at “destigmatizing the idea of therapy” and “finding ways that we can decolonize mental health spaces.”
“Some of the mental health issues we’re facing are issues like intergenerational trauma,” Jacobs said. “I am someone in my community who is pushing the conversation forward, or trying to.”
Ogwumike, of the Los Angeles Sparks, also talked about mental health. She emphasized that “leading starts with listening,” and that “when it comes to advocating for our mental health, it should really be a non-negotiable.”
Responding to criticism about her outspokenness on mental health as well as issues like anti-Black racism and police brutality, Ogwumike said, “To everyone who says ‘Shut up and dribble,’ I wish I could.”
“We all wish we could just do our thing, but that’s just not how it is,” Ogwumike said. “At the end of the day, we have a platform because we play. So who are we to not use that platform for something that’s bigger than what’s on the court?”
Looking back on her experience becoming WNBA President, Ogwumike said she has learned a lot from having dialogue with other players.
“There was so much that I didn’t realize that athletes needed because I wasn’t experiencing it,” Ogwumike said. “I think really just providing space for the conversation, for the dialogue, is where it’s at.”
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