Friday, February 18, 2011

Palisades Charter High School's Anti-Hate Rally: A Report From The Field

So one of the amazing things about speaking at middle schools and high schools is how it connects me with teens and gives me a window into their struggles and triumphs.

After visiting Palisades Charter High School in Los Angeles last October, I was contacted by a junior at the school, Dakota, who told me that she and her classmates were planning an Anti-Hate Rally to build on the momentum of my visit. I asked her to let me know how it went, and just this week she submitted this report from the field:

Students at the Anti-Hate Rally
flank the red poster paper where they wrote down
the hateful things people had said to them

Ever since I can remember, there have been gay and lesbian people in my life. They are normal, they are family, and they are greatly loved. Most of them live in New York and I don't get to see them nearly as often as I would like. They are some of the greatest people I know. They have always been kind, caring, and supportive towards me. That is why my E.A.S.T. class seemed like the perfect outlet for me to show my support for them.

At my high school we have an E.A.S.T. class, which stands for "Environmental And Space Technology." In this class we create projects that can some how benefit our school, the environment, or certain groups of people. Past examples have been, creating a rain garden, getting an AIDS walk together, and putting energy efficient light bulbs in our school.

When I first heard that we had to create our own project, I was lost. I didn't know what to do until I heard another girl in my class talk about California Faith For Equality. Their mission statement is, "To educate, support and mobilize California’s faith communities to promote equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and to safeguard religious freedom." That is taken from their website. I immediately wanted to help. This was my chance to give back to the community that had given me so much.

Since CFFE is quite busy, it was a little hard getting in touch with them. So, my new found friend and I decided to take matters into our own hands. After the news broke about many teens taking their own lives because they were bullied, we knew we had the opportunity to do something great. We decided to create an "Anti-Hate" rally.

The goal of the rally was to make my high school a place where anyone could feel accepted and to stop bullying of any kind. It took about four months to organize the whole thing. We had to go through many steps to get the project approved. The GSA (Gay Straight Alliance) and Leadership class were the two most helpful groups. Leadership helped with the organizing and the GSA showed heaping spoonfuls of support.

During the actual rally, a large red piece of poster paper was laid out in the middle of our school. We told people to come over and write down any hateful things that anyone had ever said to them, on the paper. At the end, we were going to stomp on the paper and rip it up with our feet to symbolize a new beginning. When I walked out into the middle of my school, the entire GSA was there and they were all wearing purple to show their support. It was so wonderful and fulfilling to see how enthusiastic they were. The GSA members were the ones who wrote most of what was on the poster.

I was a little disappointed to see that even though we had made announcements and put up posters, most people just walked by and didn't bother to ask what we were doing or participate. Some people actually walked by and laughed at what people had written. Luckily there wasn't too much of that, but it was surprising to see people do that.

Even though hardly any outside people participated, the people who did wrote amazing things. People wrote raw and vulnerable things and it was so hard to believe that those things had been said to their faces. When we were done, people ripped the paper up with their hands and said it felt so good to get rid of it all.

Even though the project didn't turn out the way we had hoped, the people who did participate made a huge impact on my life. I hope that this story can inspire other people to create rallies at their school or anywhere else in their community, because we need to support people. We can't let ignorance take over and leave us all with nothing. We all need to fight for equality!

-Dakota, 11th grader at Palisades Charter High School

The hateful words are destroyed.

I'll share with you all what I told Dakota, and it's something I tell GSA clubs all the time - the impact goes far beyond those who come and participate. Kind of like Israel for Jews... you don't have to live in Israel to feel the impact of there being a "safe space for Jews where it's not unusual to be Jewish" in this world. Similarly, I'm sure the Palisades Charter High School Anti-Hate Rally had an impact far beyond those who participated directly. Every student who walked by noticed the group around that giant red poster paper and the ritual of destroying the hateful words, and I'm sure it shifted the atmosphere to be more embracing of equality for all.

Great job, Dakota! Kudos to you and the Pali High GSA for making your school, and our world, a better place!



Anonymous said...

Kind of like Israel for Jews... you don't have to live in Israel to feel the impact of there being a "safe space for Jews where it's not unusual to be Jewish" in this world.

Unless you're Palestinian. Then you feel it whether you want to or not.

Lee Wind, M.Ed. said...

Hi Anonymous Feb 18, 7:20 AM

I would hope that Palestinians would want there to be a safe space for Jews, just as I would hope that Jews would want there to be a safe space for Palestinians.

And hopefully, we'll get to where the whole world is a safe space for all of us.


Unknown said...

Hey Dakota that is great work! Thank you for making the world a better place for same sex couples and their kids. Marc

Anonymous said...

What Dakota did was incredibly inspiring! It takes a lot of courage to still up for what one believes in, especially if it isn't "normal".