This upcoming week on March 28th, the Neutral Zone is going to be doing a final culminating event which focuses on discussion about what it means to be a citizen in one's country. This event will be largely focused around themes from Claudia Rankine’s “Citizen,” a book which tackles intersectional identities. As we have noticed, the world around us is changing and politics is becoming more contentious because we are beginning to better understand our intersectional identities. This dinner is meant to shed a light on what it is that makes us human. Who feels accepted in America? And who doesn’t? This dinner will have free food and performances by local poets.
The Neutral Zone is a local non-profit which was created to amplify teen’s voices. This organization has monumentally helped kids from all incomes be able to better express themselves creatively. The non-profit is predominantly run by teens, with over 350 teens visiting weekly to learn or hang out with friends. This programming does not necessarily stop during the school year, continuing into the summer months. These educational opportunities give teenagers in the Ann Arbor skills so they can develop a creative mindset.
Although the organization is open to all people, it is especially important to acknowledge how the Neutral Zone has been able to help people of color in the area. Many students of color may want to pursue writing or film making, but may not have the money to take classes — the Neutral Zone helps them with that. However, the larger source of help is the way the Neutral Zone provides a place where people from intersecting identities can go to become activists. The Neutral Zone does this by being a teen-run drop in center for youth. As teens take the bus from high school to the Neutral Zone, they are greeted by a place where they can write about their personal narratives or talk about the racial prejudice which is sometimes shown through the Ann Arbor Public School system. There are currently 20 after school programs provided at the Neutral Zone which range from music production to video editing to book clubs. Much of the material which is produced is centralized around the narratives of people of color.
For the upcoming events and dinner, we will be taking thematic concepts from one of the most critically acclaimed books in recent years. Claudia Rankine’s book, which is the main subject of the culminating event, won The 2014 National Book Critics Circle Award in poetry. In a world of literature which is usually fairly standardized, Rankine paints a picture of what it's like to live with microaggressions in a homogeneous society. For once, the story is switched from predominantly white narrative and we are allowed to see what it is like living as a person of color in America. These stories are essential to be heard for all the people that don’t experience this on a day to day basis.
The Neutral Zone is a staple organization in The Ann Arbor community. As the non-profit begins to prepare for their culminating event, it will be an amazing opportunity to once again discuss minority voices.