HOW DO YOU MEASURE, MEASURE A YEAR?
This has been a remarkable 'five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes' for the OUT IN THE SILENCE Campaign. While the struggling young artists and musicians of RENT measured their years in sunsets, midnights, cups of coffee, laughter and strife, we'll remember 2010 for the thousands of miles traveled, small towns visited, friends made, and hearts and minds changed.
Here are a few of our 'moments so dear' ...
ADDRESSING TEEN BULLYING
Seth Walsh, a gentle thirteen-year old boy living in the rural Kern River Valley of central California, was one of at least a half dozen LGBT teens who took their own lives this year because of homophobic harassment and bullying. In response to this tragic epidemic, OITS made a special effort to support youth by:
- Holding "End the Silence" events at nearly 200 high schools in 31 states in collaboration with the GLSEN (Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network) National Day of Silence
- Making the film and resources available at no-charge to all interested schools
- Facilitating the formation of new gay-straight alliance groups in small towns and rural communities across the country
- Promoting safe school and anti-bullying policies and legislation at the local, state and federal levels
These efforts have had real impact, including in Seth's home town where an OITS screening coordinated by courageous local residents catalyzed the formation of a new Kern River Valley community group that is now working with school authorities and town officials to forcibly address school bullying, harassment and discrimination.
BUILDING THE MOVEMENT THROUGH GRASSROOTS OUTREACH
At the heart of the OITS Campaign is our dedication to the idea that small acts of LGBT visibility in places where they are rare and unexpected help to raise awareness and open-up dialogue in profound new ways and create ripple effects and opportunities to organize for change that go far and wide. In 2010, this included:
- More than 300 community events in public libraries, town halls, church basements, book shops, colleges, and universities
- Groundbreaking rural tours across Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Pennsylvania
- Partnerships with over 50 organizations including chapters of the ACLU, Equality Federation, PFLAG, and GLSEN, in addition to Equality Partners of Western PA, Community Safe Zone Project of the Persad Center, Rural Organizing Project, Community of Welcoming Congregations, Freedom To Marry, and dozens of local human dignity groups across the country
- Support for efforts to enact local non-discrimination policies and other activities to make communities more welcoming and inclusive. One of many highlights was a proclamation by the Mayor and City Council that Sept. 13 is OUT IN THE SILENCE Day in Oil City, the beautiful small Pennsylvania town where OITS started and where the stories in the film take place.
We were honored and humbled by several kudos from the film and television world this year, including:
- Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Documentary from the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Mid Atlantic Chapter
- Premiere at the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival at Lincoln Center followed by screenings at the Tribeca Doc Series, Outfest, Frameline and more than 50 other festivals around the world
- Festival awards including special jury prize for Bravery in Storytelling from Nashville, Social Significance from South Dakota, and Best Documentary from Outtakes New Zealand
- Rave reviews in the New York Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Village Voice, Variety, Advocate, Christianity Today, and dozens of local newspapers
- PBS broadcast to over 80% of the national market
WHY WE'VE GOT TO KEEP WORKING TO MAKE IT BETTER
In a recent Newsweek article, It Gets Better Project founder Dan Savage declared that "the culture war is over" and that LGBT people have now achieved full acceptance in the U.S. Apparently Dan has never visited Coudersport, PA, where local fundamentalist ministers and Tea Party activists threatened to defund the public library and fire the librarian simply for hosting a screening of OITS. When those efforts failed, they held their own "Bible Believing Christian Response to OITS" a month later in the same library, expressing their violent views toward LGBT people quite clearly.
Such attacks are still all-too-common. The good news in this case is that the blatant hatred and hostility inspired other local residents, with the help of Equality Partners of Western Pennsylvania, to form a community group that is working with town authorities and mainstream church members to move Couderpsort toward becoming a more welcoming and inclusive community for all.
Such stories, which are still happening in communities across the country, are why we must continue our efforts to make it better for everyone, everywhere, now!
YOUR SUPPORT MAKES A DIFFERENCE
As 2010 comes to a close, we're making even bigger plans for 2011. Already in the works are rural tours in Arizona, Maine, Maryland and California, legislative efforts around employment nondiscrimination, safe schools, and marriage equality, and a dynamic new outreach effort with LGBT youth.
None of this work is possible without your support.
THANK YOU FOR SPEAKING, LIVING, ACTING
OUT IN THE SILENCE!
OUT IN THE SILENCE!
For More Information Visit:
Follow On FACEBOOK