LGBTQIA+ Youth Have A Safe Space with Project Silk


Project Silk will be hosting a craft night from 5 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 6, at QMNTY Center, 525 E. Ohio St., Pittsburgh. Those attending will be able to create a vision board for 2024. For more information, contact Curtis Hanner Jr. at channer@alliespgh.org or 412-935-2525.

Since 2012, Project Silk has offered young LGBTQIA+ people of color a safe space to meet, express themselves, and learn how to protect themselves from HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. Now with Project Silk under the umbrella of Allies for Health + Wellbeing, Allies staff, in partnership with Proud Haven and TransYOUniting, are launching new programming to engage with the young people of Pittsburgh.

“It is important for Allies to connect to the youth because they are the key to eradicating stigmas and miseducation that have been widespread for years,” said Curtis Hanner Jr., Community Health Manager at Allies who is heading up Project Silk. “They will be the decision-makers, artists, leaders, and directors. The youth need a space and support system that not only prepares them for the things they may encounter in everyday life but to extend a hand to others. The youth is where it starts.”

Project Silk, which is open to BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, and gender-inclusive individuals ages 13-29 within Pittsburgh, kicked off with a game night on Jan. 25, and a craft night, where attendees can put together a vision board for 2024, is planned for Tuesday, Feb. 6. All activities will take place at QMNTY Center, 525 E. Ohio St., on the North Side.

“Project Silk is a program that provides a safe space for minorities who find it hard to feel accepted elsewhere,” Hanner said, noting that the group will focus on fostering innovation, community, and creativity. “We are also a hub to teach healthy living and building the leaders of the future, with linkage to sex education, case management, leadership training, resume building, and things like that.”

Hanner said that initial activities will include more game and craft nights and vogue workshops. Hanner also is organizing a youth committee to plan future activities and events, as well as volunteer activities.

“The youth committee will consist of six members from the community of people ages 15-25 years old,” he said. “They will be leading meetings focused on upcoming activities, events, and focus groups that cater to the community’s needs.”

“Through this program, Allies adds to the welcoming, nurturing spaces that are being provided for people in the greater Pittsburgh area,” said Anitra Branch, Director of Education and Outreach at Allies. “We are among good company with organizations such as TransYOUniting, Proud Haven, True T, and Hugh Lane Wellness Foundation, doing the work of ensuring that LGBTQIA+ individuals have inviting spaces to have engaging experiences, learn new skills, and create bonds. By providing a nurturing space for youth and young adults of color, we aim to foster belonging and hope.”

“I want people to know that Project Silk is there for the community and want the community to utilize the resources available to them,” Hanner said. “I want the youth to know that they truly have a safe space to come make new friends, build skills, have fun, and find that strong support system. Let Pittsburgh know: We are back and working to be better every day!” 

Those interested in applying for the youth committee or learning more about Project Silk and upcoming events can contact Hanner at channer@alliespgh.org or call 412-935-2525. The deadline for youth committee applications is Thursday, Feb. 29.