Meet the Philly Student Magazine That Just Got Credentialed to Cover the DNC

The reporters for Motivos magazine look a lot like the future the Democratic Party would like to lay claim to — young, engaged, multi-ethnic.

The Motivos teams at Taller Puertorriqueño's Meet the Author series. Courtesy of Jenée Chizick-Agüero

The Motivos teams at Taller Puertorriqueño’s Meet the Author series. Courtesy of Jenée Chizick-Agüero

If this freaky electoral season has given us anything to be certain about, it is that diversity and inclusion are still quite an issue in our country.

From Donald Trump’s exclusion of Mexicans and Muslims from the “we” that is supposed to describe America, to Hillary Clinton’s inability to convince young Bernie voters that the mainstream Democratic Party is inclusive enough to welcome them and their core issues — the United States is going through what amounts to an identity crisis.

And, for better or worse, that identity crisis — at least the Democratic side of it — will be in evidence at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in July.

But it won’t manifest in the media coverage. Or at least not in all of the media coverage. Motivos — a bilingual magazine staffed and produced by college and graduating high school-age journalists and headquartered West Poplar Community Center in Fairmount — just received notice of preliminary credentialing to cover the Democratic National Convention.

Unexpected. And unexpectedly inclusive. 

Jenée A. Chizick-Agüero and Kiara García at the Hispanic Media Roundtable for the DNCC where the idea to apply for credentials to cover the convention was hatched. Photo courtesy of the DNCC.

Jenée A. Chizick-Agüero and Kiara García at the Hispanic Media Roundtable for the DNCC where the idea to apply for credentials to cover the convention was hatched. Photo courtesy of the DNCC.

Founded by Jenée Chizick-Agüero in 2006, Motivos is a youth-written and -produced magazine with a special emphasis on college and career prep and on the needs of 14-24 year olds, particularly Latinos. Approximately 80 percent of its readership is Latino, another 20 percent is African American, and it has a paid subscriber base of 80,000 readers in 950 schools and youth-serving organizations nationally (although 70 percent of the distribution is in Philadelphia County).

“I applied for credentialing for Motivos because it’s a rare opportunity to be part of the making of history right in our hometown” Chizick-Agüero said. “The plan for coverage is to divide and conquer. Team members have different skill sets and interests. We definitely want to have a presence at the Latino and Youth Caucuses. It’ll be a great time to gather the pulse of each group, with representatives from the entire country, a very unique opportunity indeed.”

The reporters for Motivos look a lot like the future the Democratic Party would like to lay claim to — young, engaged, multi-ethnic.

There’s Allen Williams, for example, a graduating senior at Mastery Charter’s Pickett Campus, who will be attending the University of Virginia in the fall. A committed cyclist, Williams was hit by train and after being laid up in the hospital for a time, had to teach himself to walk again. A Gates Millennium Scholar, he’s been writing for Motivos for the past two years and is excited at the prospect of covering the Convention because it will give him “a better understanding of the ways politics will affect me so I am knowledgeable of the ways I can be politically active.”

For Sobeida Rosa, who just graduated from McCaskey High School in Lancaster and will be pursuing a journalism degree at Ithaca College come fall, the convention offers the opportunity for hands-on experience. “With this convention I will be able to learn so much,” she said. “I am Hispanic and not the wealthiest on the block, but through all this I am blessed.”

All the young Motivos journalists — as indeed the older journalists of color covering for more traditional media organizations — will be watching the stage at the convention, gauging the measure of diversity in the emerging political leadership of the party and nation.

Some, like Rosa, may even be imagining themselves on that stage in the future. “Who knows what the future holds, as far as being on the DNC stage … only time will tell,” she said. “I want to be a voice for the voiceless and being a candidate for any branch or position in the government would be a great platform to voice my opinions and stand up for what I believe in.”

Williams, whose interest is in the sciences, is more noncommittal. “I do not plan on entering politics in the future, but I am open to any possibilities,” he said, “and would not mind if that eventually becomes the path that my life goes down.”

One of the Motivos writers already seems to be laying the groundwork to end up as part of the Latino leadership on a future DNC convention stage.

Ramon Guzman Jr., a 21-year-old from the Dominican Republic who grew up in Philadelphia and is now a senior at Penn State, said that “as a son of immigrants and an immigrant myself, the experience of covering the DNC will truly be one that will allow me to see the insides of a system that I am already passionate about.”

Last summer, Guzman served as a congressional intern for U.S. Representative Brendan Boyle (PA-13) through the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) congressional internship program. The summer before that, he served as an education intern with the National Constitution Center and as a staff member of the National Council of La Raza’s (NCLR) 2014 Líderes Summit in Los Angeles.

After eight years as a Motivos writer, Guzman says he is interested in exploring “the role the government plays in allowing for educational equity to prevail and the responsibilities left to the people to ensure that children have all the resources necessary to be leaders […] I see myself on the DNC stage (in the future) not as a candidate, but as an elected official in another capacity speaking in support of said-Democratic party officials or introducing one of the postulated candidates.”

Another member of the Motivos team who will be covering the convention is Kiara García (Millersville University) who, with Chizick-Agüero, attended a DNC Hispanic Media Roundtable in early May, where the idea of applying for credentials for the convention was first born.

The perspective these young journalists of color will bring to their coverage is one the Democratic Party really needs in order to resolve its identity crisis before the general election.

It’s a perspective we all need to pay attention to as we fumble and stumble our way toward the future — a future that belongs to the young, engaged, multi-ethnic generation writing it now.

Sabrina Vourvoulias is an award-winning columnist with bylines at The Guardian US,AL DÍA News, and Strange Horizons. Her novel, Ink, was named one of Latinidad’s Best Books of 2012. Follow her on Twitter @followthelede.