There's faith in Nikisha Carpenter's handshake. Literally.
Her right wrist bears a tattoo of the word ''faith,'' while her left wrist features a tattoo that reads ''hope.''
(Photo by Julian Vankim)
''I look at them a lot,'' Carpenter says of her tattoos. It's a way of keeing faith and hope present in her daily life.
That's particularly important around this time of year when things get stressful for the 32-year-old, just a few days before the annual Youth Pride Day. Carpenter volunteers her time as the board president of the Youth Pride Alliance, which organizes the event, while balancing a full-time job as a project manager for a large commercial general contractor. With the demanding schedule, it may be a blessing that she's single.
''When we get to April it's always stressful,'' she says.
''This is the time where we're getting the Youth Pride Guide together, and getting all the sponsors, and making sure that we do have the budget, and that we can continue every year to do this. But then also our No. 1 [priority] is just trying to get the word out there and let the youth know about Youth Pride Day.''
Carpenter is proud to say that this is the first year in which the organization was able to get advertisements on Metro's stations and buses.
''That was really big for us this year, getting those ads out there so that hopefully kids – not only in D.C., but also in Virginia and Maryland – will learn about the event.''
Following tradition, this year's Youth Pride features a stage program with speakers, drag performances, singer/songwriter performances, poetry and games. This year also marks a homecoming, celebrating the 15th anniversary of Youth Pride Day back at its original spot -- the northern edge of Dupont Circle.
Carpenter loves serving on the board, and adds that much like her diverse circle of friends in high school, she's surrounded by unique individuals. She grew up in Detroit with her mom. She was an avid basketball player and attended Bradley University in Peoria, Ill., with an athletic scholarship.
''In high school I had friends in all different circles. I was a jock, so I did all the sports. But for the most part I had friends that were in all the different groups.''
She can't pinpoint exactly the moment at which she knew she was a lesbian, saying it was a ''gradual process.'' But it was during that process that Carpenter found her calling: helping LGBT youth. A 16-year-old basketball teammate confided in Carpenter after she had been kicked out of her home for coming out to her mom.
''I think there are lots of adults my age that are not too far away from being young, and remember how hard it was. No matter how many people you know that are out, it's always really hard to come out yourself. It's always really hard to tell your family.''
She points to Chris Dyer, founder of the Youth Pride Alliance, when discussing what drives her and others to stay involved.
''I'm just one of many that are passionate about youth and wanted to continue what Chris started 15 years ago.''
Youth Pride Day is scheduled for noon to 5 p.m. this Saturday, April 30, at Dupont Circle. If it rains, the event will be held a week later, on Saturday, May 7. For more information, visit youthpridealliance.org.