this month’s youth media professional
Irene Villaseñor’s career in youth media and activism began in 1989, when she saw her first youth-produced documentary, a P.O.V. film Who Killed Vincent Chin? by Christine Choy and Renee Tajima. The film followed the undocumented murder of a young Chinese-American man by a disgruntled white autoworker in Detroit and showed Irene, a fifth grader, how non-fiction media can be a powerful tool in addressing social injustice. Today, Irene manages the Youth Views project at American Documentary (AmDoc), the non-profit media organization that produces this non-fiction film series P.O.V. (Point of View) on public television (PBS).
Prior to joining AmDoc, Irene worked as an educator and consultant for the Young People’s Project at the Asian Pacific Islander Coalition on HIV/AIDS where she developed curriculum on adolescent sexual health issues from a perspective that examined how immigration, homophobia, sexism, and racism influences access to healthcare.
Since high school, Irene has been a successful organizer. She co-founded City-As-School High School of New York’s first Gay/Straight Alliance as a teenager, combating homophobia with her peers through media, community health education, and advocacy. Her efforts created a safe environment for gay/lesbian students and teachers, challenged homophobia in the classroom and led to the creation of classes in queer history and transgender awareness.
As a result of her work, in 2000 she received the Women We Love, Women We Honor Award from the Brothers for Sisters Auxiliary of ASTRAEA, Lesbian Action Foundation. The award was given to celebrate the accomplishments of women who “have significantly impacted the political, aesthetic, economic, cultural and social conditions of our lives.”
Irene is a graduate of Educational Video Center’s High School Documentary Workshop where she co-produced Out Youth In Schools, a look at the Gay/Straight Alliance youth movement. Through Youth Organizers’ Television, she co-produced Hip Hop: A Culture of Influence, which was commissioned by the Brooklyn Museum for their exhibit Hip Hop: Roots, Rhymes and Rage.
When Irene is not working on media or social justice campaigns, she spends time with her extended family and on her book of family photos from the 1900s-present, which reflects a range of Filipino American experiences. She is currently enrolled at SUNY Empire State College for a bachelor’s degree.