Christina Martinez is an early childhood educator working in the culturally and linguistically diverse communities of South Sacramento. In addition, she is the digital media coordinator for MYS, LLC a project management firm based in Henderson, Nevada. Christina is a co-founder of #NoTeenShame, a national movement illuminating the need for shame-free LGBTQ-inclusive comprehensive sexuality education & equitable access to resources and support for young families. In addition to her work as a young parent advocate, she is a freelance and opinion contributor to The Sacramento Bee.
Playwright intern Sean Patrick Nill interviewed Christina to learn more about her advocacy work, #noteenshame, and the challenges arts education for educators. She’s also our #TalkbackTuesdays guest speaker on May 30 following the performance of LUNGS.
Where did the idea of #noteenshame come from? How has it developed since?
May is National Teen Pregnancy Prevention month. During this month, many organizations launch campaigns intended to reduce the number of teen pregnancies in the United States. Many of these campaigns seek to discourage teens from becoming parents by making a cautionary tale out of youth who are already pregnant or parenting. In 2013, the Candies Foundation launched a widespread campaign using the #NoTeenPreg hashtag and slogans such as “You’re supposed to be changing the world, not changing diapers” featuring celebs such as Carly Rae Jepsen and Bristol Palin.
I bristled at the implication of the words and immediately thought of the many young parents I knew who were changing both diapers and their communities. Across the nation, six other young mothers had taken notice of the ads as well and were thinking of ways to constructively push back against the negative messaging campaigns.
Through social media, we connected and began brainstorming ways to counteract Candies’ message that teen pregnancy somehow sentenced young parents to a lifetime of failure. Soon after, #NoTeenShame was born. #NoTeenShame is a movement led by seven young mothers, including myself, to improve strategic messaging campaigns and conversation around young parenting in an effort to create non-stigmatizing and non-shaming approaches to collaborating with young families.
We recognize that the stigma surrounding young parenthood can affect young parents in everything from self-perception to the availability of services present in their communities, as funding for programs that help pregnant and parent youth graduate from high school and gain access to health care are often de-prioritized in local and statewide budgets.
How important is arts education in early childhood development?
The early childhood period (generally defined as the years from birth to eight years old) is a critical period in which children develop and foster cognitive and social-emotional skills associated with success later in life. Arts participation in early childhood often includes such activities as music, song, and dance; drama and theater; and visual arts and crafts. As children develop, they experience rapid development of communication skills, motor skills, and perspective-taking (in other words, the the ability to see from “someone else’s shoes”). Studies overwhelmingly suggest that at virtually every stage of life, the arts can foster openness to novelty, encourage connections to people, places, things, and concepts, and promote the ability to take multiple perspectives, among other positive outcomes.
Children learn best through play. And some of the most meaningful and influential play based leaning occurs as a result of arts education.
#noteenshame fights against the stereotypes placed upon young parents and families that influence policy makers. How does story telling (particularly story telling through theatre) assist that mission?
Storytelling humanizes our personal experiences. The process offers us a way of making sense of the world around us. In addition, it can be uniquely empowering to craft our own narrative and share it with an audience.
As a young parent, storytelling through writing was my way of connecting with other mothers such as myself. I felt isolated in my experience for a long time. I began blogging in 2010 in an effort to share my experience with my community. Ultimately, this method of storytelling expanded my network and was instrumental in my connecting with the other #noteenshame co-founders across the country.
Through story sharing, we have been able to humanize our experiences and utilize these narratives as a way of illustrating the importance of respecting and supporting all parents, regardless of age.
We have received overwhelmingly positive feedback from people who connect with our stories, even though they may not be young parents themselves. This is the power of story telling. It allows the listener a way to connect and relate with aspects of people’s individual journeys, which in turn builds empathy and can foster meaningful connections between people that might not otherwise have occurred.
What could B Street audience members do to assist the important work that #noteenshame is doing? What can they do to support organizations that fight for arts in the schools?
I encourage audience members to visit our website at noteenshame.org to find ways in which they can be allies to young parents and the #noteenshame mission. It is important for all of us to constantly check our biases and judgments and reflect on how they impact the way we interact with not only young parents, but the greater community.
The best way for people to support organizations that seek to bring arts to the schools is to get involved in whatever capacity you are able to. This may mean a monthly donation, fundraising efforts, or perhaps advocating on an organization’s behalf. Or better yet, volunteering time and personal expertise. Our community thrives when it is supportive of a vibrant arts culture.
To purchase tickets to LUNGS order online or call the Box Office: 916-443-5300