Meet “Generation Inclusive:” The boundary-breaking organization dedicated to youth empowerment and ensuring inclusivity in their community
By: Natasha Fernandez
Generation Inclusive Founders
Amandine (front left), Quinn (back left), Julianne (front right), and Hannah (back right)
Pandemonium, in simplest terms, broke loose with the year that was 2020. However, then-high school sophomores Julianne Tenorio, Hannah Morales, Amandine Kataoka and Quinn Dimalanta, the four founders of Generation Inclusive, saw the opportunity to expand their realm of passionate activism for social justice, and they embarked on the journey of establishing an organization to their names. Breaking boundaries for women, Gen Z youth, and Asian-Americans, Generation Inclusive was created in the midst of a tumultuous summer where protests and outcries flooded the ironically dis-united United States of America’s left and right. The club mobilized their high school peers at their public school based in SoCal, aiming to foster racial, ethnic, and social equality on campus. Gen I has immersed their club members in educational and interactive presentations of various cultures, orientations, and identities while simultaneously addressing their school board’s their inclusivity policies and initiatives. As they’ve emphasized the need to speak out against discriminatory acts, these four young activists and artists have only just begun their odyssey, working hard to create a bright future for their growing organization.
In this engrossing interview, Gen I explains their origins, plans for the future, and the heart and soul behind Generation Inclusive. First, though, I urge everyone to also listen to their original collaborative single “Faults Alike,” which was created as a source to combat hatred and violence towards Asian-Americans. The piece was composed for a national multimedia competition in Orange County, CA, and the Gen I founders were awarded a $500 prize in recognition for their creative campaign to end Asian/Pacific Islander hate crimes.
It truly was an honor to be granted such an opportunity to interview Gen I, and I am assured that through the story-telling process, their message and inspiring nature will reach other aspiring pioneers in global change. Julianne, Quinn, Amandine and Hannah remind us to take the initiative and challenge the societal norms and established authorities in the name of social, racial, ethnic, political and economic equality. But most importantly, they reiterate, we must always remember the beauty of putting a piece of ourselves into what we love.
Let’s begin by discussing the roots of Gen I. Did you guys face any challenges in establishing and expanding your organization at your high school?
Quinn: “I definitely think that COVID-19 has been a huge factor and trying to find dedicated people, really finding the right outreach. But I think we’re pretty satisfied with the 25 people or so that consistently attend our meetings.”
Hannah: “I would have to say not having club rush in person; it’s different virtually. The connection’s not really there when it’s not face-to-face.”
You have dedicated every club meeting to representation of all ethnicities and identities. What does representation personally mean to you? How do you wish to reform representation in your community and/or the media?
Julianne: “A lot of us, especially in Gen Z, have grown up seeing things from a Eurocenntric perspective and not really seeing ourselves in the shows we watch and the things we read. All of us being people of color, it's really disheartening, and that’s why representation is so important to me. I want to feel as if people like me are seen and represented in popular culture but also for future generations who are a part of the bipoc, LGBTQ+, disabled communities and represented in the proper light.”
Quinn: “Yeah I agree. I hope we can be an inspiration to our own peers. Our school really wants to push this agenda to be inclusive but they kind of struggled to just be there for us—even with simple statements—and that’s why we kind of started this movement in the summer. But I think just us being women of color, as core members of the club, feel that responsibility to represent people like us in our own school. As far as the media goes, when we want to fight for representation, a lot of the times we’re kind of spoken over and told “oh you’re not really grateful for what you have” when what we do have is already miniscule. I think being a member of this club is a pretty huge step.”
Amandine: “To me, personally, representation means respect and feeling as though you are heard by all. I don’t always feel represented in my community, especially after all of the recent attacks have been happening. However, after the BLM movement started, I have definitely felt as though my voice has been heard”
You guys have made a pretty large effort to expand inclusivity in a predominantly white school. When you presented your slideshow presentation to the school board, did you face any pushback or any obstacles? Are there any things that are still a work in progress in terms of inclusivity?
Julianne: “When we presented, one of the main things they told us was how the Black Lives Matter Movement was associated as a political thing, which is something we don’t really agree with. We understood their point of view where we live being a very conservative area: maybe as much as they would want to [support the Black Lives Matter Movement], they would receive a lot of backlash from families who don’t support that, which is really frustrating. I think our school definitely still has room for improvement, but we’ve taken steps towards reaching that. We have a diversity coalition, a “no place for hate” movement, and we have put up posters for black history month. But as of now, the district hasn’t spoken up about, for example, anti-asian hate crimes. We always need to be the ones to tell them what to do. I think we can agree it isn’t fair that it’s the students that have to tell them what to do.”
Amandine: “ In Generation Inclusive, we hope to educate other students on one another’s differences. Though we may all be different, we can celebrate each other through respect and learning about each other’s cultures and backgrounds. We hope that one day, through Generation Inclusive, students can learn to be inclusive towards everyone rather than just those who look and think like them”
What’s your favorite quality about Gen-Z and how do you wish to continue projecting that into the world?
Quinn: “Our resilience in general, and how we’re never gonna back down just because someone says we can’t do something. We’re not hesitant and we know what we want. We’re starting to understand a lot of the things around us really weren’t meant to advocate representation—especially for women and people of color. I think trying to break those boundaries is the most noticeable thing about Gen Z.”
Amandine: “I think one thing about Gen Z I really like is how independent we are. Going off of what Quinn and Julianne have said, we’re not afraid to speak up against adults. We’re ready to stand our ground and make change, which there has been a lack of in the past few generations. And starting clubs and online organizations, especially during the pandemic this past year, shows how we’ve been active, and that’s what I really like about our generation.”
You are all individually involved in music and even co-created a song together called “Faults Alike” that speaks out against injustice and prejudice towards the Asian community. Can you explain the process of how it all came together, the backstory?
Amandine: “Fault’s Alike was created last November for a competition, known as the To Know Better Contest where we were skilled with creating art, a poem, a song, etc. We decided to compose a song because we are all musicians and initially met in orchestra class. The song focuses on prejudice towards the Asian community, especially after the Coronavirus erupted. The AAPI community has continued to receive so much unnecessary hate, so we felt that through the lyrics, we could put our thoughts into words and really make an impact on society. Our song has reached people globally including Singapore, India, and Canada.”
Hannah Morales: “Rather than using a presentation or speech, we felt that music was a really good way to communicate our voices and message because it’s an outlet that brings everyone together. There are so many people in the world that have an appreciation for music, so I think just picking a song and expressing our emotions through that song was able to reach so many people and their hearts. It helps people understand what we’re feeling—especially if they can’t relate because they’re a different ethnicity… using simpler words to construct how we feel.”
Quinn: “I think us choosing a song was the best art medium… It's easier to reach people. In general, I think us being musical already was the easiest way to work together and give something of ourselves into it.”
Why do you appreciate being a woman and/or gender-expansive person? Do you have any advice for girls and gender-expansive children who are also trying to empower themselves?
Hannah: “Back to what Julie was saying earlier—finding role models is really important. You want to make sure you feel represented. I feel like over the years, women have started to feel powerful—there are female politicians now, doctors, people in STEM, etc. and I think that’s really nice to see.”
Julie: “I love being a woman. Gender stereotypes suck—gender norms and things that have been implemented. I think one of the most satisfying things about being a woman is being able to break those barriers and to make your mark as a person who in the past was seen as a docile, submissive being who’s there just to please your husband. My advice for young people in general who are trying to empower themselves is… to be a unique person, [but] you don’t want to turn into someone that you aren’t. Self-reflection is really good; if you know you’re good at something, immerse yourself into that. Know where your passion is and make it a part of your personality. If you don’t know what you want to be, that’s okay! There’s a myriad of things you can do, and [there are so many intersections] between different subjects. For example, I am a person who really wants to go into STEM, but am I also someone who loves activism? Yes! I try to combine those into something that is unique to me, but that can differ from person to person.”
Amandine: “For me, personally, females in STEM have been my role models. Knowing that I want to go into the STEM field as my career choice and realizing overtime how male-dominated this field is, whenever I see another female doing the same tasks or being as innovative as most of the men in this industry, it inspires me to continue doing what I love to do.”
Faults Alike Link: (music video)