Saturday, December 10, 2011

Youth Activism Award Winners Announced!

Highlighting and honoring courageous young people who are speaking out to end anti-LGBT bullying, bigotry and discrimination in their schools and communities, the winners of the First Annual Out In The Silence Award for Youth Activism for 2011 are:

Grand Prize ($1,500): Farrington High School Gay-Straight Alliance, Honolulu
Impact Award ($750): Oregon Student Equal Rights Alliance, statewide
New Group Award ($500): Equality Club-Arapahoe Community College, Littleton, Co

FROM FILM TO CAMPAIGN TO NATIONAL AWARD
by Joe Wilson & Dean Hamer, Out In The Silence Campaign



Two years ago, as stories about the alarming rates of anti-gay bullying and youth suicide were beginning to receive national attention, we started traveling to small towns and rural communities across the country with Out In The Silence, our PBS documentary about the brutal bullying of a gay teen and his family's courageous call for accountability, to raise awareness about the problems and help people develop solutions.

While the campaign revealed that tremendous challenges remain for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in cities small and large, it also introduced us to the vibrant new, youth-led equality movement that was emerging - with little or no recognition or support from established advocacy groups - to push for change at the community level in powerful and exciting new ways.

Inspired by these bold efforts, we launched a new national Award for Youth Activism to encourage, highlight and honor creative and courageous young people and their work to call attention to bullying and harassment and promote safe schools and communities for all.

The award competition was announced this past June in partnership with GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network. In no time, more than 100 student, youth and ally groups, coast-to-coast and beyond, registered to participate by committing to hold free public events throughout the month of October, which marks LGBT History Month, Ally Week and National Coming Out Day. The events included a wide range of activities - from film screenings, town hall forums and information fairs to art exhibitions, spoken word and original musical performances.

The program exceeded all expectations, and today, International Human Rights Day 2011, we're excited and honored to announce the winners of the first annual:



The $1,500 GRAND PRIZE AWARD goes to the Farrington High School Gay-Straight Alliance of Honolulu, HI for "Going Loud," an October 21st student-led program, attended by more than 200 people, that included a day-long art showcase, live music, spoken word performances, ethnic food fair, film screening and discussion, launch of a "Safe Space Program" outreach campaign, and featured presentations by Farrington High School students and Principal Al Carganilla, Hawai'i Supreme Court Justice Sabrina McKenna, Family Court Judge Paul Murakami, and popular Hawaiian comedian Augie T.


Not only did "Going Loud" organizers manage to bring together an incredible array of community sponsors and supporters to help amplify the event's message during two months of online and community outreach, promotion, and education, they re-invigorated a dormant peer-to-peer support group at the high school and succeeded in involving local middle school students, the Boys and Girls Club of Hawai'i, and members of a large conservative Evangelical church. Perhaps most importantly, they used the film, and their extraordinary voices and creativity, to demonstrate that homophobic and transphobic bullying, harassment and discrimination are experienced by, and must be addressed across, all ethnic, racial, class, gender, geographic, and religious groups. Youth in the Rainbow Nation are on the move!


The $750 Impact Award goes to the Oregon Student Equal Rights Alliance, which coordinated film screening, discussion and speak-out events throughout October on campuses all across the state - including Southern Oregon University Ashland (pictured), University of Oregon Eugene, Eastern Oregon University La Grande, Lane Community College Eugene, Western Oregon University Monmouth, and Portland State University - "to call attention to the day-to-day lives of LGBTQ students, educate the public about issues faced by LGBTQ youth, and call people to take action on campus and in communities for inclusion, equality, and access to higher education for LGBTQ students in Oregon."

The events reached hundreds of college and high school students, community and campus leaders, and administrators, parents, and allies. And the best part is, these events were just the beginning. OSERA is committed to using momentum generated by the events to continue promoting justice for the LGBTQ community, changing diversity and tolerance trainings to help prevent gender discrimination, and strengthening state anti-bullying legislation.


The $500 New Group Award goes to the Equality Club at Arapahoe Community College in Littleton, CO, for a National Coming Out Day event that brought more than 250 people together to see and hear, like never before on this conservative small town campus, the faces, voices and concerns of LGBT students and their allies. Spearheaded by a young military veteran and his organizing team, the events included film screenings and powerful coming out stories and discussions, a panel about discrimination and its effects by former armed services members, the formation of a new campus "Safe Zone" program, and a celebratory public balloon release to help people let go of their fears and announce a new era of visibility and equality for all in the region.

To these three extraordinary groups, CONGRATULATIONS and THANK YOU for your hopeful activism!

In addition to the award winners, several other groups that participated in the program and did amazing work on their campuses and in their communities deserve an Honorable Mention:

Naugatuck Valley Community College Gay-Straight Alliance - Waterbury, CT
Queer Action at Virginia Commonwealth University - Richmond, VA
Hammond High School Gay Straight Alliance - Columbia, MD
Community College of Baltimore County Rainbow Club & Honors Program - Essex, MD
Ringling College of Art & Design Gay Straight Alliance - Sarasota, FL
West Chester University's LGBTQA Services - West Chester, PA
St. Xavier University Alliance - Chicago, IL
Broward College Gay Straight Alliance - Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Aragon High School Gay Straight Alliance - San Mateo, CA
Blackburn College Common Ground - Carlinville, IL

Thank you all and stay tuned for announcements about how to support and participate in the 2012 Out In The Silence Award for Youth Activism.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Out In The Silence Award for Youth Activism 2011 Shortlist Contenders Announced

The shortlist of contenders for the First Annual Out In The Silence Award for Youth Activism were announced today.


The awards, a $1,500 Grand Prize Award, $750 Impact Award, and $500 New Group Award, will highlight and honor courageous young people who are on the front lines in one of the most important civil and human rights struggles of our time: ending bullying & discrimination and achieving dignity, respect, inclusion, fairness and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

The award competition was announced by the Out In The Silence Campaign this past June, and in no time, more than 100 student, youth and ally groups, coast-to-coast and beyond, registered to participate by holding free public events throughout the month of October, which marks LGBT History Month, Ally Week and National Coming Out Day. The events included a wide range of activities - from film screenings, town hall forums and information fairs to art exhibitions, spoken word and original musical performances.

The shortlist of contenders includes:

Naugatuck Valley Community College Gay-Straight Alliance - Waterbury, CT

Queer Action at Virginia Commonwealth University - Richmond, VA

Hammond High School Gay Straight Alliance - Columbia, MD

Oregon Student Equal Rights Alliance - statewide

Community College of Baltimore County Rainbow Club & Honors Program - Essex, MD

Equality Club, Arapahoe Community College - Littleton, CO

Ringling College of Art & Design Gay Straight Alliance - Sarasota, FL

West Chester University's LGBTQA Services - West Chester, PA

Farrington High School Gay Straight Alliance - Honolulu, HI

St. Xavier University Alliance - Chicago, IL

Broward College Gay Straight Alliance, Safe Zone Team & Student Success - Ft. Lauderdale, FL

Aragon High School Gay Straight Alliance - San Mateo, CA

Blackburn College Common Ground - Carlinville, IL

Winners will be announced in The Huffington Post
on International Human Rights Day, December 10, 2011.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Role Models and other Glimpses of Self

A Message from Betty Hill, Executive Director of the Persad Center, the nation’s second oldest licensed counseling center specifically created to serve Pittsburgh's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) community:


Barbara Grier, lesbian-themed novelist and publisher, died this week. She and 3 other women founded Naiad Press in 1973 “to publish books about lesbians who love lesbians and where the girl is not just going through a phase.”

She was overwhelmed by the volume of orders for her books. While she was surprised at the demand, I am not.

Think about the thrill of a young lesbian who finds a story that reflects how she thinks and feels and loves in the world in the midst of a lifetime of stories and books where she is out of place and cannot relate.

It speaks to me about the need for evidence and reflection that is hungered for by a population of people who are made invisible in their world.


Heterosexism is institutionalized isolation.

In heterosexism, it isn’t just that GLBTQ people are a minority and so you don’t run into them as much as heterosexual people; there is deliberateness about omitting any signs of the minority population’s existence.

It sends the message that there isn’t just fewer of you, “we wish there weren’t any of you.”


GLBTQ people are seeking signs of their existence and of their realities.

You figure out who you are in the world by seeing signs of yourself in others and in aspiring to bring into life what sparks as a glimmer of you in people you admire. Barbara Grier brought stories of lives that were glimmers of hope to the reality and existence of women who love women.


We need visible signs and safe spaces to sort out our way of relating in the world.

This can happen in small and everyday ways where we acknowledge and name the relationship between a family member and his partner, or where we include the possibility that some kids may want bring a same-sex partner to the school dance, or while we watch “Dancing with the Stars” that we talk about the challenges of being transgender, and we make information available to young people about sexual or gender orientation.

Persad works with organizations to help them eliminate institutional heterosexism and homophobia. We can conduct on-site assessments of environments, policies, practices and staff /worker attitudes and understanding, as well as to assist in achieving goals to improve diversity and inclusion.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Designing For Impact: Out In The Silence

from the "Designing For Impact: Social Justice Documentary," a report by the Center for Social Media at American University:


Sometimes fear and hatred come from ignorance. When that occurs, the best way to eliminate hate is to foster understanding.

The film “Out In The Silence” started with an "unexpected" same-sex marriage announcement in the local newspaper of Oil City, PA. Letters and phone calls from all over the town rushed in. A few people showed their support, but many expressed their resentment.

Among the supporters there was a mother. Her gay teenage boy C.J. was being bullied in school so badly that he refused to go to class and even became suicidal.

Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer, the filmmakers and the couple in the marriage announcement, know exactly how it feels to be a gay man in a small town. They found C.J. and were determined to help. They tried to connect people in and outside the LGBT community, searching for common ground.

The results?

"Out in the Silence" is their message to the world. It aims to raise awareness of what LGBT people face especially in relatively rural area. It has inspired so many people, activated so many gay and lesbian organizations and grown into a huge campaign.

Five weeks into our release of "Designing for Impact" report case study, this time we will look at how "Out in the Silence" initiated LGBT campaigns. We will analyze the way the filmmakers have responsed to obstacles, and used various media and distribution channels to build networks and reach out to a broader audience.

Read the full case study report HERE.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Letter from Indonesia: "I Have Decided Not To Run Away"

We receive many beautiful notes from people near and far who have been affected by the stories in "Out In The Silence." This one from Shila in Indonesia is particularly inspiring:


Dear Joe & Dean,

My name is Shila and I’m from Indonesia, a country known as having the largest Muslim population in the world.

I got the chance to see your movie, "Out In The Silence," a few months ago at Q! Film Festival in Jakarta, and I have to say, it was a life-changing experience.

I lived for a few years in Canada just a few months after I came out as a lesbian. Life got easier because Canada is obviously a very gay-friendly country. I also was very blessed with the fact that my family and friends were very accepting about me being gay. Despite all of the love and acceptance given by my loved ones in Indonesia, I still thought that it’s better for me to live in Canada for good and to never come back to closed-minded Indonesia. I wanted to save myself.

But your movie changed me.

I remember you saying how you respect the people who decided to stay in Oil city and have the courage to live their lives openly in that small town portrayed in the film. I thought, wow, you’re right. These courageous people have probably helped and inspired more young kids like CJ compared to those who choose to live openly outside of their hometown.


And then I remembered my friends who organized Q! Film Festival, the biggest queer film festival in Asia, and the overwhelming size of the audiences this year.

Imagine, the biggest queer film festival in Asia is in the largest Muslim-populated country in the world!

My friends decided to stay, even though they could’ve chosen to live elsewhere in the world, and they have made a huge impact in the lives of people here, gay and straight.

I have always wanted to help create a change in the lives of young gay people. You guys have made me realize that, maybe, I could create a better change if I come back to my small-minded hometown and slowly help the people here build awareness towards LGBTIQ people.

How will I do that? I don’t know. But most importantly, I have decided not to run away to Canada anymore, and I thank you guys for that. I really, sincerely, thank you. I hope this realization would be helpful for a lot of young lives here.

Thank you, again.

Regards,

Shila A.
Indonesia

Friday, October 28, 2011

On Screen/In Person Mid-Atlantic Tour November 2011


OUT IN THE SILENCE is being featured in the inaugural season of On Screen/In Person, a film tour sponsored by the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation "designed to bring the best in new independent American films and their respective filmmakers to communities across the mid-Atlantic region."

The screening sites are:

Norfolk, VA -
Chrysler Museum of Art -- Nov. 9 - 7:00 PM

Lynchburg, VA -
Riverviews Artspace -- Nov. 11 - 7:00 PM

Charleston, WV -
Clay Center for the Arts -- Nov. 12 - 5:30 PM

Oswego, NY -
Oswego Cinema at SUNY -- Nov. 15 - 7:00 PM

Wilmington, DE -
Theatre N at Nemours -- Nov. 17 - 7:00 PM

Vineland, NJ -
Frank Guaracini Jr. Fine Performing Arts Center -- Nov. 19 - 2:00 PM



We'll be doing our best to use these events to help raise the visibility of LGBT voices, issues and concerns, and to promote dialogue, organizing and action for change toward justice and equality for all.

Also in November, we'll be doing special events in:

Jamestown, NY - Jamestown Community College -- Nov. 5 - 6:30 PM

Clarion, PA - Clarion University of Pennsylvania -- Nov. 7 - 7:00 PM



WE HOPE TO SEE YOU THERE!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Betrayal in Butler -- Call for Rally on Oct. 27!

from PFLAG Butler - Oct. 26, 2011:


As you may or may not know, PFLAG of Butler County Pennsylvania has been working quietly with Mayor Stock and Butler City Council to create a HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION in the City of Butler. We have been at work on this since last year.

In September the City Council voted to approve the first reading of this ordinance and they voted unanimously to do so. The next step was for a second and final reading of the ordinance at the October meeting (tomorrow night) with a vote to enact it. If there were no objections then the ordinance would be law. All that changed today.


We received an email from the Mayor telling us that the bill would not pass because of the objections of some council members (there are a total of 4 members on the council). We had been in constant communication with the mayor to see if she had received any objections from anyone. We were assured that all was well -- until today -- the day BEFORE the final vote.

If they vote on it tomorrow night then the issue and our effort will be dead. Once a bill has been disapproved chances for a rematch are slim to none. We are strongly encouraging the Mayor and Council to NOT vote but to shelve the idea so that we can address the issues with them.

To make matters worse an article appeared in the Butler Eagle this evening which misrepresented the intentions of the Human Rights Commission. Council member Bratkovich and the City Attorney Coulter told untruths about the commission and its important work. They took this issue to the public after they asked us not to do the same. We feel betrayed and are quite angry at the treatment we have received.

We have no choice now but to go public, go big and bring the issue to them in a new and more aggressive way. That’s why the officers and board of Butler County PFLAG, in a meeting this evening, decided to call a RALLY together before the meeting tomorrow evening.

This is the first step in a strategy we have developed to bring this effort to the public and let everyone know what it is EXACTLY that we are asking.

All marginalized groups, i.e. mental and physically handicapped, the elderly, veterans, as well as sexual and gender minorities, would have been protected by the commission whose main task would be to mediate complaints of discrimination and render decisions to empower those who are oppressed to take their causes to the courts. The Commission, like all commissions in Butler, would be totally volunteer and requires no budget.

Please join us tomorrow, Thursday October 27, at 6PM at the City Building for a show of strength and support around this important issue. Is Butler a place where discrimination is given free reign? Is Butler a place where people who are vulnerable are powerless to confront their persecutors?


Please consider showing your support by being there! If you bring signs please make your slogans be about JUSTICE and EQUAL PROTECTION OF THE LAW UNDER THE US CONSTITUTION! Be positive about our aim. We don’t wish to give any media coverage the chance to call us names or to further misrepresent out intentions.

In addition, contact the council members individually. Flood their emails and phones. Their contact information is found HERE.

The Council members are Bratkovich, Reese, Kline and Schontz. Let them and Mayor Stock know how you feel.

You will receive any updates via email and on this Facebook page throughout the day on Thursday. We’ll be in touch. Can we count on you?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Occupy Clarion University of Pennsylvania for Equality

"Out In The Silence" at Clarion University of Pennsylvania
(With Special Performance by Folk/Rock Legend Namoli Brennet)
Monday - November 7 - 7:00 PM



OUT IN THE SILENCE, an acclaimed film that looks at an issue of urgent local and national concern -- fairness and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people -- will kick off Clarion University's Equity Week: Building Communities of Inclusion and Empowerment.

Sponsored by the Office of Social Equity and the Martin Luther King Jr. Committee, the event is scheduled for 7:00 PM, Mon., Nov. 7 in the Hart Chapel.


Namoli Brennet, a major contributor to the film's soundtrack will open the event with a few songs, and filmmakers Joe Wilson, a native of nearby Oil City, PA, and his partner Dean Hamer will be on-hand for a post-screening conversation to get the audience fired up about challenging anti-LGBT bigotry and discrimination and building the local movement for justice & equality for all.


The Clarion screening holds special significance because Western Pennsylvania is not only the setting for the stories in OUT IN THE SILENCE, it is home base for the American Family Association of Pennsylvania, the state affiliate of the American Family Association, a national 'traditional values' organization that was recently designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) for the “thoroughly discredited falsehoods and demonizing propaganda it pumps out about homosexuality and other sexual minorities.”

The American Family Association of Pennsylvania also features prominently in the film as a result of the role it plays in promoting anti-LGBT attitudes and policies in the area and throughout the state.

OUT IN THE SILENCE captures the remarkable chain of events that unfold when a same-sex wedding announcement and the brutal bullying of a gay teen ignite a firestorm of controversy and a quest for change in the small Pennsylvania town of Oil City. Tough and wrenching, inspiring and entertaining, this Emmy Award-winning film is challenging audiences across the country, and around the world, to rethink their values and consider how they can help close the gaps that have divided families, friends, churches, and communities on these issues for far too long.

The film was produced in association with the Sundance Institute and Penn State Public Broadcasting, premiered at the 2010 Human Rights Watch International Film Festival in New York, and won an Emmy Award for Achievement in Documentary.

The characters in the film are just ordinary people – a kid and his mom, two women who start a business, an Evangelical preacher and his wife – but their stories get at the heart of how anti-LGBT stigma and repression continue to harm individuals and divide communities,” said filmmaker Wilson. “That's why we're using it as a tool for education and activism, especially in small towns and rural communities, where there often isn't any visible or organized gay presence at all.”

At the heart of the campaign is a dedication to the idea that small acts of LGBT visibility in places where they are rare, and sometimes unwelcome, 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.

Some of the campaign's events have been targeted by opponents for protests and threats. For example, at an Oct. 10 event in Tupelo, Mississippi, home of the American Family Association, acts of intimidation and a bomb threat were made in attempts to thwart the event, but they failed to derail the first-ever public pro-equality rally in the community.


More often, however, “Out In The Silence events have become forums, a place to meet where there has been no place, to talk where there is a desire to talk but little occasion,” wrote JoAnn Wypijewski in The Nation.

Filmmaker Wilson hopes that Clarion students, faculty and administrators, as well as state and local elected representatives, civic, community and religious leaders will attend the event to express their support for inclusion, fairness and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and all people, particularly youth, who call the region home.

To see a trailer or for more information about the film, please visit: OutintheSilence.com

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Shout Out to Tupelo Ally Bob Spencer!

During each and every conversation that takes place after an OUT IN THE SILENCE screening, we talk about the important role that allies play in any and all struggles for social justice -- the simple idea that it is not the responsibility of oppression's victims alone to stand up, speak out, and take action, i.e. put their lives on the line, to vanquish injustice, but that it is the shared responsibility of all who call a community, a state, a nation home, particularly those who may not have quite as much at-risk, at least in the immediate sense, to help create that better world.


While we've come to know many, many incredible straight allies in the struggle for inclusion, fairness and equality for LGBT people over the past two years as we've traveled the backroads of rural and small town America with the OUT IN THE SILENCE Campaign, none have inspired us like Bob Spencer of Tupelo, MS.


Bob is 70+ years old. He was active in the civil rights movement, has been involved in international solidarity work, and is now helping to bring spiritual enlightenment to the world as a Lay Minister with the local Unitarian Universalist Congregation.

As if that wasn't enough, Bob has now made it his personal mission to bring the phrase "liberty and justice for all" to life for LGBT folks too. He's an unstoppable dynamo!


Bob was the inspiration behind and the lead organizer for the recent, and what may have been the first-ever, pro-LGBT equality rally in Tupelo, which also happens to be the home of the notorious anti-gay hate group known as the American Family Association.

Bob worked for months to build a strong coalition of local and regional supporters. He secured a venue and helped to fend off under-handed attempts by the AFA to crush such local support and have the event canceled. And, he made sure that media paid attention and gave the event the visibility it needed to reach a wide audience throughout the region and across the country.


Called Give Hate A Holiday, the Oct. 10 event was wildly successful. Despite the minor interruption of an anonymous bomb threat early in the day, it brought hundreds of people together, helped make new connections and alliances in the community and across the state, and has already spawned the creation of a new group, the Tupelo LGBT Community, to continue to build and carry the movement forward.

Bob Spencer is the perfect example of the difference that one person can make, and how a seemingly small act of personal conviction can be the spark that ignites a fire in the mountain for extraordinary change.

Thanks Bob, for being such an ally!


Yours in Solidarity,

Joe Wilson & Dean Hamer
OUT IN THE SILENCE Campaign

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Take A Stand Against Hate in Western Pennsylvania -- Building Change Film Festival - Pittsburgh - October 14

Award-winning Gay Rights Doc to Screen in Pittsburgh's Building Change Film Festival


OUT IN THE SILENCE, an acclaimed documentary that looks at an issue of urgent local and national concern -- fairness and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people -- will be featured in Pittsburgh's Building Change Film Festival, part of Building Change: A Convergence for Social Justice, the first-ever gathering of people and organizations from across Southwestern Pennsylvania who share a common goal of advancing social justice and change in our region and world.

The screening is scheduled for Friday, October 14 at 5:00pm at the Point Park University Theater. Filmmaker Joe Wilson, a native of nearby Oil City, PA, will be on-hand for a post-screening conversation to get the audience fired up about building the local movement for justice & equality.


The Pittsburgh screening holds special significance because Western Pennsylvania is not only the setting for the stories in OUT IN THE SILENCE, it is home base for the American Family Association of Pennsylvania, the state affiliate of the American Family Association, a national 'traditional values' organization that was recently designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) for the “thoroughly discredited falsehoods and demonizing propaganda it pumps out about homosexuality and other sexual minorities.”

(The American Family Association of Pennsylvania features prominently in the film as a result of the role it plays in promoting vicious anti-LGBT bigotry in the area and throughout the state.)

A highlight of the post-screening discussion will be an examination of the explosive new SPLC Intelligence Report titled “THE PROPAGANDISTS: Bryan Fischer, the American Family Association & the Demonization of LGBT People.”

At an Oct. 10 screening of OUT IN THE SILENCE in Tupelo, MS, home base for the American Family Association, "A Bomb Threat Failed to Derail First-ever Equality Event in Tupelo!"


OUT IN THE SILENCE captures the remarkable chain of events that unfold when a same-sex wedding announcement and the brutal bullying of a gay teen ignite a firestorm of controversy and a quest for change in a small Pennsylvania town (Oil City). Tough and wrenching, inspiring and entertaining, this Emmy Award-winning film is challenging audiences across the country, and around the world, to rethink their values and consider how they can help close the gaps that have divided families, friends, churches, and communities on these issues for far too long.

The film was produced in association with the Sundance Institute and Penn State Public Broadcasting, premiered at the 2010 Human Rights Watch International Film Festival in New York, and won an Emmy Award for Achievement in Documentary.

“The characters in the film are just ordinary people – a kid and his mom, two women who start a business, an Evangelical preacher and his wife – but their stories get at the heart of how anti-LGBT stigma and repression continue to harm individuals and divide communities,” said filmmaker Wilson. “That's why I'm using it as a tool for education and activism, especially in small towns and rural communities, where there often isn't any visible or organized gay presence at all.”

At the heart of the campaign is a dedication to the idea that small acts of LGBT visibility in places where they are rare, and sometimes unwelcome, 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.

Some of the campaign's events have been targeted by opponents for protests and threats. See “Potter County Library Faced Threats Over Gay Documentary” (Harrisburg Patriot-News)

More often, however, “they have become forums, a place to meet where there has been no place, to talk where there is a desire to talk but little occasion,” wrote JoAnn Wypijewski in The Nation.

The Pittsburgh screening is especially significant because the region is home to one of the most homophobic and transphobic members of the state legislature, Rep. Daryl Metcalfe of Butler County. Metcalfe is consistently one of the biggest obstacles to achieving justice and full inclusion for Pennsylvania's LGBT residents, and a regular promoter of divisive measures such as the ANTI-marriage equality constitutional amendment being re-introduced this year.

Filmmaker Wilson hopes that state and local elected representatives, civic, community and religious leaders will attend the event to express their support for inclusion, fairness and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and all people, particularly youth, who call the region home.

To see a trailer or for more information about the film, please visit: OutintheSilence.com



Film Synopsis: When a popular 16-year-old jock is brutally bullied for coming out at his small town high school, his mother reaches out for help to the only person she feels she can trust, an openly gay man who lives 300 miles away – native son and filmmaker Joe Wilson, whose same-sex wedding announcement ignited a firestorm of controversy in the local paper. Returning home with camera in hand, Wilson documents the harrowing but ultimately successful battle waged by the teen and his mom against recalcitrant school authorities, the efforts of a lesbian couple to restore an historic theater in the face of vitriolic anti-gay attacks, and his own unexpected friendship with an Evangelical preacher. Intertwined with these heartfelt stories is Wilson's exploration of the role that the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Family Association plays in stoking anti-gay bigotry in the town. At once tough, wrenching, inspiring, and entertaining, OUT IN THE SILENCE ultimately shows the individual and community transformations that are possible when people, on all sides of these challenging issues, lay down their swords and take the time to get to know one another.

As walls are torn down and bridges built, OUT IN THE SILENCE offers a fascinating and moving commentary on America's culture war.

Quotes:

“A stunning documentary” - The Philadelphia Inquirer

“Film Critic's Pick-of-the-Week” - New York Times

“Though the film is made by two gay men, it doesn't seek to promote a “gay agenda” or to stereotype the “religious right.” It's simply a matter of trying to understand attitudes in small-town America.” - Christianity Today

“Most moving are the stories of heterosexuals who transform because of their relationships with GLBT people.” - American Library Association

“After 'Out In The Silence' played at Williamsport's Community Arts Center in September 2010, I was compelled to write the following message on the film's official website: “Your film does cause one to reflect on one’s own behavior and prejudice. I consider myself a progressive African-American, but the film caused me to doubt my relatively conservative attitudes about homosexuality and the bigotry against gays and lesbians. Mistreatment of another human being is wrong. But, I have not taken a strong stance against the bigotry. I will do better.” - Richard James, Founder, Billtown Film Festival

Monday, October 10, 2011

Bomb Threat Fails to Derail First-Ever Equality Event in Tupelo

Media Advisory: For Immediate Release -- October 10, 2011

Bomb Threat Fails to Derail First-Ever Equality Event in Tupelo

Tupelo, MS – First the venue hosting a screening of “Out In The Silence” as part of a first-of-its-kind pro-lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality event in Tupelo, Mississippi, was pressured by local "family values" advocates to cancel the event, then it received an anonymous bomb threat as things were getting underway.


The intimidation and threat occurred at the Link Centre on Main Street as organizers and allies were gathering outside the building to welcome attendees and offer a public display of support for efforts to raise LGBT visibility and build the local movement for inclusion, justice and equality for all.

Tupelo holds special significance as the setting for these events as headquarters for the American Family Association (AFA), a national organization designated as a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) for the “thoroughly discredited falsehoods and demonizing propaganda it pumps out about homosexuality and other sexual minorities.”


The bomb threat followed a press conference at which the SPLC unveiled an explosive new Special Report titled “THE PROPAGANDISTS: Bryan Fischer, the American Family Association & the Demonization of LGBT People.”

The threat was investigated by the Tupelo Police Department who swept the building and cleared it for use. The film screening took place as scheduled followed by a powerful community dialogue where a diverse audience pledged to join together, speak out against homophobia and transphobia and build the movement for change in Tupelo and beyond.


Co-sponsors of the event included: Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Tupelo -- Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Oxford -- PFLAG Oxford/North Mississippi -- Gulf Region PFLAG -- University of Mississippi Gay-Straight Alliance -- OUTlaw at The University of Mississippi -- Mississippi Workers' Center for Human Rights – ACLU of Mississippi – Unitarian Universalist Mid South District -- Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations "Standing on the Side of Love" Campaign – Believe Out Loud – Americans United for Separation of Church and State -- Tennessee Equality Project -- Georgia Equality -- Equality Federation -- GetEQUAL.

###





UPDATE
: Rally Urges Support for LGBT Community - from the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal - Oct. 11, 2011

TUPELO - Demonstrators outside the Link Centre on Monday held up signs reading "Love" as they showed their support for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.


The event, called "Give Hate a Holiday" was organized by the Unitarian-Universalist Congregation of Tupelo and brought together about 35 legal analysts, gay rights activists and their supporters.

"Homosexuals do not expect special rights, only human rights," said Amanda Todd, an attorney and organizer of the Tupelo chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, or PFLAG.

Speaking alongside Todd at a press conference prior to the demonstration were representatives from the ACLU, the Tennessee Equality Project, the Mississippi Workers' Center for Human Rights and the Southern Poverty Law Center.


Earlier this year the SPLC designated the Tupelo-based American Family Association a hate group. The SPLC based its designation in part on comments made by Bryan Fischer, director of issue analysis at AFA and host of "Focal Point" on American Family Radio.

Mark Potok of the SPLC called Fischer's comments about gays "outrageous" and "intentionally false." Potok referred specifically to comments Fischer made in a May 27, 2010 blog post in which he endorsed a theory that links gays to Adolf Hitler, the Nazis and the Holocaust.

AFA President Tim Wildmon said that comments on blogs like Fischer's don't necessarily reflect the positions of the AFA, adding that while he believes the Bible plainly teaches against homosexuality, "I reject the notion that we're doing anything that fosters hate against LGBT people. That would be un-Christian."



At noon folks were dismissed from the press conference and gathered along West Main Street holding signs proclaiming their belief in the fair and equal treatment of gays. A march that had been planned at AFA's headquarters was canceled because of traffic safety concerns.

Filmmaker Joe Wilson, whose documentary "Out in the Silence," about a Pennsylvania teenager picked on because he's gay, said events like this raise awareness within a community and help deter injustice. The film was shown twice at the Link Centre on Monday.

galen.holley@journalinc.com

Friday, September 23, 2011

Give Hate a Holiday -- Tupelo or Bust!


GIVE HATE A HOLIDAY
Take a Stand for Justice & Equality for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender & All People
Tupelo, Mississippi
October 10, 2011

A very special series of events will take place in Tupelo, MS on Monday, October 10, to help raise visibility and public awareness about the lives and concerns of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Mississippi and throughout the South, and to help build support for ongoing local, state, and regional efforts to make our communities more just, inclusive, humane, and safe for LGBT and all people who call them home.


In line with recent high profile public debates about bullying and youth suicides, safe schools, family equality, military service, racial intolerance and other civil and human rights concerns, there will be an emphasis on the perspectives and needs of LGBT youth, as well as efforts to help bridge the gaps, created by those who use religion and politics as weapons of hate, that have divided families, friends, churches and communities on these issues for far too long.

Tupelo holds special significance as the setting for these events because it is headquarters for the American Family Association, a controversial national organization recently designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for the “thoroughly discredited falsehoods and demonizing propaganda it pumps out about homosexuality and other sexual minorities.”

The Give Hate A Holiday events will begin with an 11:00 AM press conference at Tupelo's Link Centre, featuring coalition representatives, to offer statements and answer questions about its purpose and goals. Mark Potok, Director of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project will also unveil an explosive new Special Report titled “THE PROPAGANDISTS: Bryan Fischer, the American Family Association & the Demonization of LGBT People.” Additionally, Southern Clergy for Inclusion will release “A Southern Proclamation” in which they proclaim God’s love for all, including LGBT persons and publicly apologize where they have been silent.


The public events events will start at 12:00 Noon with a peaceful and colorful demonstration on Main Street in front of Tupelo's Link Centre where participants are invited to declare, with banners, posters, chants and other creative forms of public witness, their commitment to the struggle for inclusion, fairness and equality for LGBT people and to call out to others to join the movement and take a stand.

At 2:00 PM, in the Link Centre Concert Hall, there will be a free public screening of OUT IN THE SILENCE, the acclaimed, hopeful and inspiring documentary film about courageous local residents confronting homophobia and the limitations of religion, tradition and the status quo in their conservative small town, followed by a dynamic town hall-style public forum aimed at engaging the audience in an action-oriented dialogue about inclusion, fairness, and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and all people in Mississippi, throughout the South, and across the country. Filmmakers Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer will be on-hand to help lead the discussion, and the public is invited to participate and to share their perspectives on the issues, and ideas for promoting change, with the audience. (There will be a Repeat Screening and Town Hall Forum at 7:00 PM for those unable to attend the 2:00 PM showing.)

Following the film screening and town-hall forum, participants are invited to continue the conversation in the Link Centre's Reception Hall and to visit with representatives of local, state, and national groups and organizations to learn about the work and how to get more involved and take action. (If you or your organization would like to set-up an information table, please contact Melanie Deas at: mdeas@link-centre.org)

Co-sponsors of the Give Hate a Holiday event include: Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Tupelo -- Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Oxford -- PFLAG Tupelo -- PFLAG Oxford/North Mississippi -- Gulf Region PFLAG -- University of Mississippi Gay-Straight Alliance -- OUTlaw at The University of Mississippi -- Mississippi Workers' Center for Human Rights -- ACLU of Mississippi -- Unitarian Universalist Mid South District -- Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations "Standing on the Side of Love" Campaign -- Believe Out Loud -- Americans United for Separation of Church and State -- Tennessee Equality Project -- Georgia Equality -- Equality Federation -- Out Now Youth (Springfield, MA) -- GetEQUAL -- and YOU! (To put your group's name on the co-sponsor list, contact Joe Wilson at: QwavesJoe@yahoo.com)

PLEASE JOIN US to TAKE A STAND AGAINST HATE and FOR JUSTICE & EQUALITY for ALL!




About the Film: When a popular 16-year-old jock is brutally attacked for coming out at his small town high school in the hills of western Pennsylvania, his mother reaches out for help to the only person she feels she can trust, an openly gay man who lives 300 miles away – native son and filmmaker Joe Wilson, whose same-sex wedding announcement ignited a firestorm of controversy in the local paper. Returning home with camera in hand, Wilson documents the harrowing but ultimately successful battle waged by the teen and his mom against recalcitrant school authorities, the efforts of a local lesbian couple to restore an historic theater in the face of vitriolic anti-gay attacks, and his own unexpected friendship with a conservative evangelical preacher. Intertwined with these heartfelt stories is Wilson's exploration of the role that the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Family Association plays in anti-LGBT controversies. At once tough, wrenching, inspiring, and entertaining, OUT IN THE SILENCE ultimately shows the individual and community transformations that are possible when people, on all sides of these challenging issues, lay down their swords and take the time to get to know one another.

OUT IN THE SILENCE was produced in association with the Sundance Institute and Penn State Public Broadcasting, premiered at the 2010 Human Rights Watch International Film Festival in New York, and won an Emmy Award for Achievement in Documentary. The film has become the centerpiece of a dynamic grassroots campaign aimed at raising visibility and promoting dialogue and civic engagement in small towns and rural communities across the country.

Media Contact: Joe Wilson -- Email: QwavesJoe@yahoo.com

A press kit and more information about the film and community engagement campaign are available at: http://OutintheSilence.com




"A Bible-Believing Christian Response to Out In The Silence" - Featuring the American Family Association of Pennsylvania's Diane Gramley:

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Stand Against Hate and For Justice & Equality -- Tupelo or Bust!


GIVE HATE A HOLIDAY
Take A Stand For Justice & Equality for LGBT People
Tupelo, Mississippi
(Home of the American Family Association)
October 10, 2011


12 Noon
Main Street - Tupelo Link Centre
Colorful Demonstration of Support for LGBT Equality
(Banners, Posters, Chants & Creative Public Witness Welcome!)

2:00 PM
Link Centre Concert Hall
Free Public Screening of "Out In The Silence"
Followed by Town Hall Sharing / Take Action Public Forum
"Out In The Silence" is an acclaimed, hopeful and inspiring film that has become a dynamic grassroots campaign about love, hate and the quest for justice & equality in heartland America.


4:00 PM
Link Centre Reception Hall
Information and networking fair with representatives of local, state, and national groups and organizations to learn about the work and how to get involved and take action.

(If you or your organization would like to set-up an information table, please contact Melanie Deas at: mdeas@link-centre.org)

Co-sponsors of the Give Hate a Holiday event include: Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Tupelo -- Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Oxford -- All Saints' Episcopal Church of Tupelo -- PFLAG Tupelo -- PFLAG Oxford/North Mississippi -- Gulf Region PFLAG -- University of Mississippi Gay-Straight Alliance -- OUTlaw at The University of Mississippi -- Mississippi Workers' Center for Human Rights -- Unitarian Universalist Mid South District -- Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations "Standing on the Side of Love" Campaign -- Americans United for Separation of Church and State -- Tennessee Equality Project -- Georgia Equality -- Equality Federation -- Out Now Youth (Springfield, MA) -- GetEQUAL -- and YOU! (To put your group's name on the co-sponsor list, contact Joe Wilson at: QwavesJoe@yahoo.com)

PLEASE JOIN US to TAKE A STAND AGAINST HATE / FOR JUSTICE & EQUALITY for ALL!


For more information see: Give Hate A Holiday - Tupelo or Bust!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Hope Over Hate in Northwestern Pennsylvania

Award-winning Gay Rights Documentary
to Screen in Boonies International Film Festival

OUT IN THE SILENCE, an acclaimed documentary that looks at an issue of urgent local and national concern -- fairness and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people -- will be featured in the inaugural Boonies International Film Festival in Warren, PA.

The free screenings are scheduled for Thursday, August 18 at 7:00pm at the Struthers Library Theater and Friday, August 19 at 12:30pm at the Warren Public Library. Filmmaker Joe Wilson, a native of nearby Oil City, and LGBT and Ally residents and natives of Warren, will be on-hand for a post-screening conversation with the audience.

The Warren screenings hold special significance because northwestern Pennsylvania is not only the setting for the stories in OUT IN THE SILENCE, it is home base for the American Family Association of Pennsylvania, the state affiliate of the American Family Association, a national 'traditional values' organization that was recently designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for the “thoroughly discredited falsehoods and demonizing propaganda it pumps out about homosexuality and other sexual minorities.



(The American Family Association of Pennsylvania features prominently in the film as a result of the role it plays in promoting vicious anti-LGBT bigotry in the area and throughout the state.)

OUT IN THE SILENCE captures the remarkable chain of events that unfold when a same-sex wedding announcement and the brutal bullying of a gay teen ignite a firestorm of controversy and a quest for change in a small Pennsylvania town (Oil City). Tough and wrenching, inspiring and entertaining, this Emmy Award-winning film is challenging audiences across the country, and around the world, to rethink their values and consider how they can help close the gaps that have divided families, friends, churches, and communities on these issues for far too long.

The film was produced in association with the Sundance Institute and Penn State Public Broadcasting, premiered at the 2010 Human Rights Watch International Film Festival in New York, and won an Emmy Award for Achievement in Documentary.

“The characters in the film are just ordinary people – a kid and his mom, two women who start a business, an Evangelical preacher and his wife – but their stories get at the heart of how anti-LGBT stigma and repression continue to harm individuals and divide communities,” said filmmaker Wilson. “That's why we're using it as a tool for education and activism, especially in small towns and rural communities, like Warren, where there often isn't any visible or organized gay presence at all.”

At the heart of the campaign is a dedication to the idea that small acts of LGBT visibility in places where they are rare, and sometimes unwelcome, 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.

Some of the campaign's events have been targeted by opponents for protests and threats. See “Potter County Library Faced Threats Over Gay Documentary” (Harrisburg Patriot-News)

And this:



More often, however, “they have become forums, a place to meet where there has been no place, to talk where there is a desire to talk but little occasion,” wrote JoAnn Wypijewski in The Nation.

The screenings in Warren are especially timely in light of the recent passage of the Marriage Equality Act in nearby New York, a major milestone in the state's journey toward justice and full inclusion for its LGBT residents, while Pennsylvania, still without any protections for LGBT people in employment, housing or public accommodations and without comprehensive anti-bullying policies to protect youth, gears-up for another divisive battle around an ANTI-marriage equality constitutional amendment being re-introduced this year.

Filmmaker Wilson hopes that federal Congressmen Mike Kelly and Glenn Thompson, State Senators Mary Jo White and Joseph Scarnati, State Representative Kathy Rapp, and other local elected representatives, civic, community and religious leaders will attend the Warren event to express their support for inclusion, fairness and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and all people, particularly youth, who call the region home.

He is also hoping that residents from neighboring communities in New York attend in solidarity and to share their more enlightened perspectives on the issues.

For more information about the film, please visit: OutintheSilence.com

New National Award for Youth Activism!

The OUT IN THE SILENCE Campaign, in partnership with GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network), is thrilled to announce a new national Award for Youth Activism to highlight and honor the courageous young people who are on the front lines in the most important civil and human rights struggle of our time: achieving dignity, respect, inclusion, fairness and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.


The award was conceived in response to the tragic epidemic of teen suicides that captured the nation's attention last year and the renewed, and troubling, efforts of anti-LGBT voices to stir the bigotry, hatred and fear that puts youth at-risk and has divided families, friends, schools, and communities on these issues for far too long.

A $1,500 Grand Prize, $750 Impact Prize, and $500 New Group Prize, will be awarded to the student, youth, and ally groups that most effectively raise LGBT visibility, call attention to bullying and harassment, and promote safe schools, inclusion, fairness and equality for all by holding an OUT IN THE SILENCE film screening & speak out event in their school or community during the month of October -- which marks LGBT History Month, Ally Week and National Coming Out Day.

Entering the award competition is easy. To be eligible to win, and to receive a FREE DVD and Event Planning Toolkit, check out all the details and register by Sept. 26 HERE!

Award Winners will be announced in The Huffington Post on December 10
-- International Human Rights Day!

About the Film and Campaign: Based on the true story of a courageous teen who stands up to bullying and harassment in his small town high school after a brutal gay-bashing, OUT IN THE SILENCE provides a hopeful and inspiring call to speak out and take action against all forms of bigotry and discrimination. Since its June 2010 premier in the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival in New York, and subsequent broadcast on PBS stations across the country, the film has become the center of a dynamic grassroots campaign aimed at raising LGBT visibility and promoting dialogue and civic engagement, particularly in small towns and rural communities where there often is no visible or organized LGBT presence at all.

Screenings of this Emmy Award-winning film are a great way to spark new thinking, capture the attention of leading local decision makers, and recruit new allies to the movement for equality.

YOU CAN HELP by spreading the word
to student and youth service groups in your area.


Take Action - Silence Is Meant To Be Broken!





GLSEN offers many resources and support for schools to implement effective and age-appropriate anti-bullying programs to improve school climate for all students. Check it all out at: GLSEN Anti-Bullying Resources

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Support LGBT Youth & Protect California's FAIR Education Act!

You can help fight bullying and harassment of LGBT youth across California by spreading the word about a new national Award for Youth Activism!


The OUT IN THE SILENCE Award, with a $1,500 Grand Prize, a $750 Impact Prize, and a $500 New Group Prize, will go to the student and youth groups that most effectively raise LGBT visibility, call attention to bullying & harassment, and promote fairness & equality for all by holding an OUT IN THE SILENCE event in their school or community during the month of October -- known as LGBT History Month and for National Coming Out Day.

To be eligible to win one of the awards, and to receive a FREE DVD and Event Planning Toolkit, interested groups simply need to register their event HERE.

These events will be a powerful way to help protect California's new FAIR Education Act.


Signed into law by Gov. Brown just last month to ensure that all students receive an accurate account of the historical contributions that LGBT people, and other underrepresented groups, have made to the economic, social and political developments of the state and the nation, anti-equality forces are already mobilizing to erase the FAIR Education Act from the history books.

They have been given until mid-October to collect 500,000 signatures to qualify a referendum, that would overturn the law, for the June 2012 ballot.

This attack isn't just an attempt to censor the contributions of LGBT people, it's also an attempt to revive the lies and bigotry that put LGBT youth at-risk of bullying, harassment, violence, and worse.

Your help in spreading the word about the OUT IN THE SILENCE Award for Youth Activism is a great way to help communities organize against this bigoted assault!

Award Winners will be announced in The Huffington Post on December 10
-- International Human Rights Day!

Based on the true story of a courageous teen who stands up to bullying and harassment in his small town high school after a brutal gay-bashing, OUT IN THE SILENCE provides an inspiring call to speak out and take action against all forms of bigotry and discrimination. Screenings of this Emmy Award-winning film are a great way to spark open dialogue, capture the attention of leading local decision makers, and recruit new allies to the movement for equality.

For all the details:
OutintheSilence.com