My name is JJ Draper, my pronouns are they/he, and I am the Youth Engagement Specialist for Ex Fabula! As the Youth Engagement Specialist, I have considered my own personal goals and motivations for the role through the lens of my own background. I was born and raised right here in the city of  Milwaukee on the north side, where I have seen firsthand the disparities and segregation that continue to thrive within the community. Growing up, I always wondered why we continue on as if these disparities that are rooted in racism aren’t apparent, and it’s partly because we as a society operate under the notion that if no one talks about it, it doesn’t exist. I met many individuals during my time in college who were actually talking about doing social justice work, and it sparked a fire in me to start becoming an active member of my community, familiarizing myself with a treasure trove of local organizations who were doing phenomenal work through the connections that I have built. If you aren’t sure where segregation exists, simply take a drive up North Avenue. You can visibly see when the foreclosed and abandoned buildings turn into an abundance of businesses and beautiful murals that the mostly white-populated city of Wauwatosa has to offer.

Learning about social justice in high school and college, I have seen that capacity building was the lens I wanted to work through if I wanted to attempt to make change in my hometown, which has led me to work primarily in nonprofit spaces and eventually create the Butterfly Collective (Facebook, Twitter), which is a grassroots organization that primarily serves black and brown transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals who live in Milwaukee. In my very short but vast experience with working in nonprofit spaces, my motivation for doing this work is because I am represented in the work. I see so many folks who look just like me and talk just like me not given the same opportunities as I have been offered. I am a firm believer in the notion that one enthusiastic YES can change someone’s life, and Ex Fabula gave me the enthusiastic YES to become the new Youth Engagement Specialist! I hope to be able to provide youth with resources and the tools they need to be able to fully express themselves and to show folks that there is power in youth voices and their stories. I want to be able to uplift voices that aren’t otherwise heard, as they are just as important and essential in community building. Individuals will be able to consider perspectives that they may not have otherwise considered before and may look at particular topics and issues differently from the power of youth storytelling. I will serve as a bridge for youth to the wider community and hope to lean more into communities of color and the LGBTQ+ community to bring even more stories to the forefront.