“BreakOUT! seeks to end the criminalization of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth to build a safer and more just New Orleans. They build on the rich cultural tradition of resistance in the South to build the power of LGBTQ youth ages 13-25 and directly impacted by the criminal justice system through youth organizing, healing justice and leadership development programs.”
Wes is the founder and director of BreakOUT! and is a 2011 Soros U.S. Justice Fellowship recipient. He previously served as the LGBTQ Youth Project Director at JJPL where he authored the report, Locked Up and Out: Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth in Louisiana’s juvenile justice system. He has helped pass and implement policies for LGBTQ youth in New Orleans’ youth detention center, provided technical assistance to alternative juvenile justice programs becoming more LGBTQ-competent, and informed juvenile justice standards and policy guidelines at the local and national level. Wes also serves on the Advisory Board for the Equity Project. Wes graduated with a degree in Gender Studies and African American Studies from Georgia State University.
LGBTQ youth make up between 5-7% of the nation’s youth population, but account for 40-50% of homeless youth and at least 15% of youth in juvenile detention.
- Secured groundbreaking language in the proposed Consent Decree between the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) and the Department of Justice—the most extensive in the country—which prohibits profiling of LGBTQ people based on gender identity or sexual orientation.
- Hired 2 youth members through Job1
- Raised over $230,000 since June 2012.
- Launched a GED Program specifically for BreakOUT! members with the Youth Empowerment Project’s NOPLAY GED Program
- Developed “Say My Name,” a theatre performance in partnership with Ping Chong + Company that shares the real life stories of 5 transgender young women and resistance in the face of criminalization;
- Launched Get Yr Rights, a national LGBTQ youth network with Streetwise and Safe (NYC) to create a network of youth staying safe on the streets
- Worked to draft and implement an LGBTQ youth policy at the city’s only youth shelter
- Amplified LGBTQ youth voices locally and nationally, and brought members to conferences in Detroit, Atlanta, Jackson, Oakland and Houston
“Propeller has provided networking opportunities for us with potential funders or partner organizations and workshops to teach us how to better communicate the importance of our work. This has meant increased capacity for our organization and allowed our youth membership to focus on their campaign organizing and leadership development work.”
Founder and Director, BreakOUT! ('13)