Health, Social Justice, and Tumblr: A Conversation with YTH Intern Laneka Vinay

YTH’s internship program helps young leaders develop their skills and learn more about their personal passions and ideas in youth, tech, and health. I‘m a proud alum of the internship program, and I eventually joined YTH as the Communications Associate after graduating from college. I love how YTH interns are valued and have an active role in YTH programs and events.

That’s why 16-year-old Laneka Vinay was a great fit for the internship program. She has a black belt in kajukenbo, a martial art, and teaches young people self-defense. Laneka also wanted to learn more about advocating for racial justice and gender equality, especially through social media. I spoke with Laneka to learn more about her interests and internship experience.

Laneka quote blog

ERIN: You have a black belt in kajukenbo, a huge accomplishment for someone of any age, and you teach young people about healthy living. How has this shaped your worldview and your experience at YTH?

LANEKA: I’ve been practicing martial arts since I was eight years old. I learned a lot about the five fingers of self-defense—use your head, your voice, your feet and your fighting skills only if you have to, and tell someone what happened. Not just the physical part, but the emotional part and being aware that as a martial artist it’s not all about the fighting. [It’s also about] knowing how to use it in a positive way and to be a peaceful warrior and not partake in any violence.

Learning to be aware of healthy living and how to look at things in a different way made me interested in YTH, so that I could help other youth or people interested into social media look at how they live and how to be more aware of their health.

ERIN: You curated a series of GIFs for an upcoming online privacy website that YTH is launching. Was this your first experience working in tech? How did you enjoy working on a project like this?

LANEKA: This was my first experience in tech and it was a really good first experience. I first identified different topics I was into and then from there, I looked on Tumblr to learn more and see how others used social media for social change. It was really cool, and I got to see how Tumblr links to everything from feminism to social justice rights.

It was also really cool to work with GIFs and finding them because those are really popular on social media. Any social media website you get on, that’s all you see! It was really cool to actually get to make them, knowing that they’re going to be launched alongside a privacy website. I got to see what it takes to make those, and hopefully they make people laugh!

ERIN: What do you think is the most important thing for young people to know about privacy online?

LANEKA: I would say something that everyone kind of knows but never realizes is super important is being mindful about what you post. You just never known who can get a hold of what you post and how it affects your reputation.

ERIN: Tumblr is a place where many young people host blogs about social justice and sexual and reproductive health. How did your deep dive into Tumblr help to shape your views on these topics?

LANEKA: I got to learn more about the topics I was interested in, like feminism and social justice. One notable discovery I made was Planned Parenthood’s Tumblr. I never knew they worked on LGBT issues.

ERIN: What did you find to be the most compelling way young people use Tumblr as for social justice and sexual and reproductive health?

LANEKA: Tumblr has quotes, pictures, and link-based posts. The picture posts are the most compelling and grabbed me the most because of their emotional appeal. Instagram is pictured-based too, but Tumblr gives you the ability to create a little write-up about what the pictures mean to you.

ERIN: How did your experience on Tumblr help you to shape your own viewpoints on social justice and sexual and reproductive health? What specific issues/campaigns/news events drove you to explore your views?

LANEKA: Tumblr helped me to get more of an understanding about what I liked about the topics. When I first talked about what I was interested in, I never thought that I would be so emotionally appealed to from the posts on these topics.

When I was on the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag, I could relate to a lot of it and it was really emotional. #BlackLivesMatter really drew me because from that I learned about different topics that I didn’t even know about. It made me more aware of what was happening and made it easy to follow up with events that had happened, like with Sandra Bland.

ERIN: We’re so happy to have had you as an intern! What is the biggest lesson you’re taking from your experience at YTH?

LANEKA: I came to YTH as an intern hoping that I could learn how to help other people be more aware of their health. I didn’t think social media could really tie into that, but I learned that I can help people to be more aware about health through social media. Through Tumblr and what I post, I can make a difference.


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