We had the good fortune of connecting with Mark Yabut and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Mark, have you ever found yourself in a spot where you had to decide whether to give up or keep going? How did you make the choice?
When I no longer feel passionate or feel any joy in what I do, that is the sign to move on. I think it is important that we put ourselves in situations that ultimately bring us joy. If you know that the end goal and result of what you are doing will bring you joy but the journey might be tedious, keep going. But if the journey is tedious and the end result and goal are something that will not make you proud or joyous, then recognize that and the effort you put in, then move on from it knowing something else will come along the way that will help you grow.

Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Free Malaya aims to protect and to amplify the power of LGBTQIA+ youth, especially queer youth of color, through critical mentorship for students and by equipping and empowering educators with queerly responsive tools, resources, and professional learning to create learning environments where all students move from surviving to thriving. My goal is to create the conditions for queer students of color to feel seen as they negotiate academic engagement and performance with mental health and wellness. This is especially crucial during a social revolution unfurling within a global pandemic that creates the conditions for youth to feel unsafe, uncomfortable, and closeted. I am proud of our self-care kit initiative for supporting Black LGBTQ+ youth. We rallied 300 community members all over the world to donate over $6,000 in five days. This led to partnering with 15 Black and queer-owned businesses nationally to provide 60 self-care packages to Black LGBTQ+ youth facing unique challenges (including homelessness) relating to their intersectional identities across 15 states. I bring passion and joy for innovative advocacy and critical thought leadership to my work with queer youth of color and this has made the challenges worth it!

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Definitely drag shows and drag bingo! You can find the most joyous and passionate people in these inclusive spaces. Authenticity is something I try to practice and being in spaces where one can be unapologetically themselves is powerful. Being able to share sacred spaces where I can be myself and inviting my best friend into them are moments we can forever trasure. Nothing more fun than good food, good drinks, and great laughter!

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I’d like to dedicate this to my parents. Growing up, my parents always reminded me to feel fortunate with what I had and taught me to have a giving spirit because if one day I am in need, I would want someone who has the capacity to help to be able to do the same for me. I would also like to dedicate this to my middle school teacher: Ms. Mondragon. She believed in my skills as a leader with a voice and fostered them!

Website: http://thefreemalaya.org/

Instagram: @freemalaya and @tatakpilipino (personal IG)

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