Tag Archives: youthsayyes

Why YES! Matters – A Video Series

6 Dec

Many of us have seen the It Gets Better videos that have inspired and given hope to countless people, young and old, that things get better and they do not need to take drastic measures to deal with the trauma of bullying and harassment.  I loved watching many of these videos, and quietly wished that I had seen some of these when I was in high school.  Though hope for a brighter future is an important factor in making life-altering decisions, it simply isn’t enough.  I had a young leader in 9th grade say to me, “I don’t know if I can wait three more years for it to get better.”  That hit a nerve in me.

I thought again about my experience in high school getting teased, pushed, and avoided consistently.  Then I heard a bunch of the young leaders around me talk about all the things they’re doing in their school as part of their GSA’s, Diversity Clubs, ANYTOWN clubs, etc. and it was clear to them that they weren’t telling any one to wait.  They were taking the initiative to make it better.  They were organizing after-school meetings with school faculty to educate them on LGBT terminology, they were leading dialogues on what bullying looks like in their school at their advisories, they were creating poster campaigns to educate people about the cycle of oppression, they were going up to people sitting by themselves at lunch, they were asking their school cafeteria to have a “diversity lunch,” and they were being true role models by celebrating the unique qualities that make them just them.

They were doing all this because they wanted that “hope” to come earlier, to come now.  And, these are the youth who envisioned, planned, and launched The YES! Campaign in October.  Why do they believe in the POWER of YES!?  Watch the Videos to find out and share your comments and feelings in the comments below!

(Muneer Panjwani)

WE ALSO DID A PRETTY COOL FLASHMOB AT NCCJ’S ANNUAL HUMAN RELATIONS AWARD BANQUET!

Youth taking ACTION to end Youth Homelessness – Upcoming Event

1 Dec

Youth homelessness, but why?

3rd Annual Youth Homelessness and Hunger Summit

Three years ago, students at Classical Magnet High School in Hartford Connecticut, many of whom where ANYTOWN alums, got together to talk about youth homelessness.  They found that Youth homelessness is a problem nationwide, but it is hardly discussed. The National Alliance to End Homelessness estimates that about 5 to 8% (about 1 to 1.5 million) of our nation’s youth experience one night of homelessness each year.

Facts

So they said they want to take ACTION to raise awareness and educate the community about this issue.  Under the leadership of Dr. Monica Brase (an ANYTOWN advisor for 5 years!) they put together a Youth Homelessness and Hunger Summit inviting community leaders and youth to participate learning the reality of youth homelessness and what we can do to stop it.  The last two years have been a huge success with many youth leaders facilitating workshops, engaging in discussions, all the while sleeping outside to see what if feels like to be homeless for one night.  Suffice it to say, it’s been a powerful learning experience for many.

The ACTION Against Youth Homelessness and Hunger (AAYHH) group is hosting the 3rd Annual Youth Homelessness and Hunger Summit at The Lyceum in Hartford Connecticut on December 10th, 2011 from 9:30AM-2:00PM.  The summit is open to youth and young adults ages 12 and up.  Youth leaders in AAYHH will facilitate workshops to broaden understanding of youth homelessness and hunger.  Resource materials will also be available.  For more information or to register, please go to http://www.aayhh.com or contact Dr. Monica Brase at 860-695-7203 or at classicalmagnetaction@gmail.com or Patrick Bracken at (860) 695-9238.

Homeless Youth Summit Dec 2011 Flyer

Get more facts here:  http://www.dowhateverittakes.org/why/

Janette’s Day at YES!: I am part of the group called “youth” and change will start happening if I take action and help my fellow peers.

28 Nov

My Day at the YES! Conference

By Janette Cruz

When you hear the word Conference you usually think of men or women in business attire, and long, boring, and useless diagrams. However, on October 23,2011 I was a YES! leader at the YES! Conference and the word boring was far from it. I got there around 7ish and it ended around 5 but those hours flew by so fast. As soon as the first school arrived– music, like “Firework” by Katy Perry started playing. My friend Erin and I were in charge of playing games (ice breakers) with the different schools and it was a lot of fun interacting with people our age from all over CT, Mass, and RI.

It was up beat, filled with energy and just fun. I loved the poet Jamele Adams, he gave me inspiration and energy. I n fact, he inspired me to make my speech for Names Can Really Hurt Us (an anti-bullying program at my school) into a poem about discrimination. The workshops during the conference were very informative and let everyone participate (through sharing of thoughts, feelings, memories, etc.). I was not assigned to a workshop but I walked around and listened to a few and it seemed like everyone was enjoying themselves.

I attended a workshop called “That’s Soooo Gay!” about how homophobic language, attitudes, and feelings create an unsafe school culture and how homophobia hurts not just people who are LGBTQ, but everyone. The woman who was running this workshop got sick and had to leave, leaving my friend Matt and I in charge. We passed out some papers that she left and continued the discussion about positive and negative stereotypes of people in the queer community.

It was interesting to hear what others (not only ppl who were LGTBQ but allies also) thought about being LGBTQ in their school. They talked about how they felt and why they felt that way. For example, a male said: “I’m gay and proud of it but that doesn’t mean I’m going to want to have sex with every guy I see,” properly correcting a prejudice people have.  I loved hearing what allies thought because they are usually forgotten when you think about LGBTQ/queer community. When an ally male said, “I support my friends who are gay or lesbian, etc. but since I hang with them, people often think I’m gay too, even though I’m not.”

We also talked about how being LGBTQ is not a choice but a discovery/acceptance within yourself that you were born that way.  In addition to this we also talked about how to be an ally. I enjoyed the discussion but wished it wasn’t so much like a lecture in a way, since our presenter got sick. Matt and I weren’t so sure how well we did at talking about/ leading a workshop until one of the guys who participated in the workshop told us that he really learned a lot from the workshop and enjoyed it. It was a really cool feeling, knowing that the message really got through.

In the afternoon I saw a group of improv students perform. They showed the perspective of each person in a bullying situation–bully, victim, bystander, and ally. In the afternoon I saw a movie called “Bullied” of a guy who was bullied in school so much  that he was beaten, threatened and almost killed because of his sexual orientation. He was the first to sue his school for not taking action and helping him with this serious situation.

I also really enjoyed the part of the conference where all the youth had to come up with an idea of how to take all that they learned that day and bring it back to their school. They wrote it on a note card and had to walk around exchanging note cards with everyone until the sound of the whistle blew (kinda like musical chairs haha). Then we were told to rate/add suggestions to the idea, so everyone got to see each others idea and see if it would work.

Overall it was a wonderful time. I was interviewed during the conference on why I was helping and the answer is because I am part of the group called “youth” and change will start happening if I take action and help my fellow peers. Youth should have a say in what is right and what is wrong. I learned new things, met new ppl and had fun while doing all of this. This conference makes me want to continue to find new ways to stop discrimination, prejudice, bullying, etc. in my school.

The YES! conference was only the beginning of the actions that youth are doing/going to do to stop bullying.

We, the youth have power and it’s time to use it to help the current generation and the next.

YES!

Impromptu Dance Party!

ps: we had the best dance parties during break. haha c:

Janette is a student at Wethersfield High School.  She is a recent alum of NCCJ’s ANYTOWN program and has been YES! Leader all year long. We are continually impressed with her ability to rise to the occasion as she did at the conference with Matt Wilson when their facilitator got sick.  That was pretty rocking to see. 🙂

Emma’s Words: It has ALWAYS been the time to end bullying.

16 Nov

Emma Murray!

The YES! Conference

by Emma Murray

The YES! Campaign on October 23, 2011 was a huge success. After schools arrived and registered, I was in charge to help rally students together to take a picture. The actual conference hadn’t even begun yet, but everyone appeared enthusiastic and excited for what was in store in the hours to come. I was pleased with this positive omen. During the first activity I was in with about twenty other students, we talked about what makes human beings feel included and excluded. In a nutshell, here’s what we decided for what makes us feel included: feeling part of a conversation, being paid attention to, feeling like you can be yourself, and feeling genuinely happy.

For excluded, however, the list appeared to be longer. We also all noted how much quicker answers were being spout out, and that it seemed much easier to come up with negative things rather than positive. The following was on the excluded list: fidgeting with clothes, pretending to text, checking the time over and over, not being listened to, feeling sad and not feeling like we are pivotal to the conversation. What was interesting about this discussion was that we had all just met each other, yet the environment and vibe was positive and happy, and everyone listened and respected one another. I also think it was a great moment of realization for everyone in the group; it was clear that no one is alone, that at some point or another, everyone has felt included as well as excluded.

At my afternoon workshop, “We Fit. Just Differently.”, I learned some horrifying facts about Autism. Over 85% of autistic kids are bullied (and over 95% of kids with Asperger syndrome are bullied). I also learned that autistic individuals take longer to process what is said to them; it’s not that they don’t understand, they just need a little time to process and reply. Writing is also more difficult for autistic individuals. I learned this from an activity where we had to place a piece of paper in front of a mirror and then write our name backwards, but so it appeared normal in the mirror. This was MUCH more difficult than one would think, and the point was to show us that normal writing for autistic kids is a struggle.

It is not only important, but crucial, for youth, for us, to end bullying in schools. Whenever teachers speak up about bullying and give us a “lecture,” some students tend to react with the typical brush-off “push it aside, suck it up, and move on” response. But one of my group members from my school said something that really made an impact on me.

He said that if the “cool kids” and “leaders” of groups or cliques in schools start standing up to bullying, then the rest of the pack will follow.

When teachers attempt to enforce and instill positive change, it is not nearly as effective because it’s coming from an adult whose JOB it is to say those things. Students left the YES! Campaign empowered to make a change. But what does saying YES! actually mean? It means to agree to end bullying and speak up when an inappropriate comment is said or when an individual is treated poorly and inappropriately; to become leaders in your schools and communities to make a difference; to make a positive change by positively influencing our peers.

It is time to end bullying. Wait, no, CORRECTION: it has ALWAYS been the time to end bullying. The question is, are you going to treat others the way you want to be treated? Are you going to make a change and say, “YES!”? I sure hope you do.

I’m asking these questions to you for real.  What’s your answer?

——————–

Emma Murray is also a musician. Check out her music here on YouTube. Follow her on twitter: @emmamurraysongs.

Caleb’s Story: I’ve learned that I would rather stand up than to silence myself by committing suicide.

14 Nov

Caleb!

Dear Diary – and to those of you who read this,

My name’s Caleb Rhys Wilkie, I’m sixteen years into this life, I attend Westfield High School (go Bombers!) as a junior, I’m close with my ridiculously large family, I have really good friends, and like many college-bound students at this age, I’m beyond stressed when it comes even to starting to look colleges. Oh! Also: I’m

Gay.

Catch-up:

I came out the summer after seventh grade (at age thirteen) slowly to friends. My goal by the end of eighth grade was to be out to 100 people, including family, and then have a big party. The party didn’t happen. However, I met and reached my goal of 100, doubled it, and then just figured what the hell and decided to tell everyone. I had guts. At thirteen I was openly gay. By fourteen, I had my first relationship ever, and it was going strong. It ended after five months but that’s a different story.  In the end, middle school wasn’t too shabby.

As I am still in High School, I can’t finalize my report on it; can’t judge it until it’s all over and it’s in the past. Although, one finding that won’t look so good on its record is that freshman year was full blown hell; with sophomore year being barely an improvement.

I fit the statistic: I am gay and I was hearing, “homo,” “faggot,” and “sissy” about 26 times a day or as statistics accurately state – once every fourteen minutes. I was being ignored. Sure, I had my friends, but the occasional talk with someone random in class would’ve been cool too. I had no one to relate to, there weren’t any other gay guys out in my school even though my school has 1600 kids.  I dreaded going to a few of my classes. The thought of being required to spend forty-six minutes in a class and be humiliated by kids while the teacher practiced the “ignorance is bliss” ideology Revolted me. Anyways, feeling alone and wanting to attract more gay people into my life, I figured I ought to change myself. I figured I ought to be more gay. I Googled “gay” to help. At that moment I became self-conscious. Google filled my screen with a bunch of pictures of beautiful men, all of them fit and in shape or skinny. Once again I felt alone – I didn’t fit into what the society’s idea of what a “real” gay guy is now – and of course I didn’t fit in with the straight people. I was friends with straight people, but I always felt I was not one of them. So I decided to be gayer in a different way.

I wore heels.

Yeah, that was a whole bunch of tiring fun. Being questioned nearly 24/7, laughed at, treated differently than I was the day before, being pushed, being tested to see if I could walk in them (I could), asked by teachers to give them a reason, talked about all over school, feeling intimidated to go to the bathroom, and then being yelled at by my mom when I got home for wearing the heels that I bought. The day I wore heels is the day that everything erupted. It’s the day I had an urge to commit suicide. I was done with being judged and being made fun of, being questioned, being ignored. I was done. Fortunately, I did not go through with it after going to a crisis center. The day I gave up and asked to die was also the day I asked to live, said yes to myself, and decided to make a big, fucking change.

Sophomore year was just a tiny step up from freshman year, like one of those oddly placed half-steps we’ve all stumbled upon. Slurs still happened, but not as bad. I became the president of the Gay Straight Alliance, making it more active than it ever was before. I stuck with my decision to make that big fucking change.

How?

I got educated. The NCCJ (the National Conference for Community and Justice) was my place of choice. I had ties with them because I attended their ANYTOWN summer program, I got involved, and I put what I learned and what I believed to practice.

I introduced the NCCJ’s BRIDGES program to the school and made sure it happened.  (75 of my peers have now gone through the program!) I practiced what I preached. I pointed out hateful comments. I spoke up for myself and others.

I did what made me happy. I gave up trying to be anything else than what I was.

Present Day

So diary, I’ve learned some stuff through my experiences. I’ve learned that it’s perfectly acceptable – and normal – to not be the stereotypical definition of gay. I’ve learned that it’s perfectly acceptable to wear whatever I want to wear. I’ve learned that I’m not truly alone, that just because I don’t see certain people every day or as often as I would like doesn’t mean they aren’t right beside me. I’ve learned that I would rather stand up than to silence myself by committing suicide. I would rather protect myself and others in the future from being targeted than to give up. I learned that people who care, sometimes tell you not do to something because they want to keep you safe.  So I have learned to balance being myself and keeping myself safe – and to listen to their concerns. I’ve learned that people are not going to be accepting and welcoming overnight, it’s a gradual process. I’ve learned to relax and take a step back instead of being constantly overwhelmed. I’ve learned to support my peers who are fighting for their own equality albeit concerning: sex, race, class, religion, etc… because in the end I don’t want anyone to hurt and it’s all one big fight against hate. I’ve learned to be articulate and use my words and voice as needed. I’ve learned I have power, and people will – and do! – listen. I learned that my struggles have made me who I am today; a proud, happy, gay sixteen year old who I would not change a thing about.

I still struggle often with self-esteem issues – I find it hard to love myself after being disrespected in the ways that I have been. I still feel the scars of the words, of being avoided and ignored. I still sometimes feel out-of-place and alone. I still feel weak. However, I remember there’s nothing wrong with just being Caleb Rhys Wilkie, and that I can genuinely say I stuck to my truly life-changing choice to make a big fucking change.

Diary and others, thank you for listening to my story of how I found myself, and to how I said YES!

P.S.  The statistic was found at: http://www.nmha.org/index.cfm?objectid=CA866DCF-1372-4D20-C8EB26EEB30B9982

Message to the Bully – Spoken Word by Jamele Adams, performed at YES! Conference.

3 Nov

This is written and was performed by Jamele Adams at the YES! Conference 2011.  One of four pieces he performed that day, his words shook the minds and hearts of all in attendance.  We will be posting the other three of his rhymes individually within the next week.  Gotta give each their own blog so the power in his words is given the respect they deserve.  Check back soon!

Jamele Spittin' Rhymes

Message to the Bully

With your methods
You will not win
Vesuvian “Savant-Intelligentsians”
Comprehend
No matter how mean
You don’t expect this dream
To come back like love
To combat love; lost
In empty hugs and Shoulder shrugs
Cyber slugs and begrudged thugs
Love
Love
Love
Like hands out, hearts open
Peace pipes can’t reach the same level of smoking
The way our fire breathe have lungs open
Inhale candle 
Exhale Roman
Inhale Prometheus
Exhale Jesus
Inhale bully
Exhale Willie,
Or Jimmy, Lisa, Rosa, Mike, Bartholomew
Anyone that resembles unique you

 

Cool is no comparison to the majesty of the individual

 

Momma said follow no fool
There4
We will not give into slurs
We will not join you in saying that to her
We won’t use our words to beat him
Nor retract from your physical attacks
We won’t clown them in gym
We won’t back page their Facebook
Or sour their glitter on twitter by being bitter

 

Bully-use of superior strength or influence to intimidate
Bully-the act of repeated aggressive behavior to intentionally hurt
Bully-a person who is habitually cruel or overbearing, especially to smaller or weaker people

 

WE ARE NOT SMALL OR WEAKER PEOPLE
WE ARE MOUNTAINS OF VARIOUS SIZES

 

Check our DNA
We Do Not Allow
Love to not exist-be it ever-present
Like timeless birthday gifts

 

Love-a strong predilection or enthusiasm
Love-actions towards others based on compassion
Love-ineffable feeling of solicitude toward a person, such as that arising from kinship
We are won

 

October shouldn’t be anti-bullying month
It should be the month of self-esteem
And then have a calendar of 12 Octobers (know what I mean)

 

Larry King (murdered by Brandon MacAnary for asking on a date)
Eric Mohat (shot himself after someone said shoot yourself, you won’t be missed)
Jeremiah Lasater (shot himself in the head and had food thrown at him)
Megan Meier (hung herself in her closet after a comp message saying the world would be better without her)
Jaheem Herrera ( hung himself in his closet after being called gay, ugly and the Virgin after getting a report card full of A’s and B’s)
Justin Aaberg (gay bullying)
Phoebe Prince (cyber-bullying)
Lance
Celina
Ty
Ernest
Kimberly
Jon
Asher
Seth
Caleb
Jamarcus
Brandon
Samantha
Ashley
Alex
Billy
Harrison
Justin
Edward
Cassidy
Alexis
Christian
Cody
Felix
Jesse
Scott
Tyler
Raymond
Cory
Brittany
Jeremy
Jordan
Zach
Brendan
34 lost in 2010 due to Bullycide and cyberbullying

 

Forget money
Social security now means protection of your social identity
We are the saviors against these learned behaviors
Post Traumatic Bullying Disorder
Learning to live, with loveless-risks
And to those of us suffering with this

 

We care
We need you
We see you
You are not invisible
You are not forgotten
You are not alone
You can cry
Be angry
Be unsatisfied
Ask why
AND WE WILL REPLY
WITH THUNDEROUS SOUND
LOVE UNIFIED!

 Bullying is intimidation, harm and degradation of a human being, their character or the esteem of their spirit by another.  Breaking of one’s spirit by another’s pariah of insult and pain. The cure; love.

 Jamy publishing (c) October 2011.  harlym125@aol.com. 917-921-1456

We be buzzing like bees on a mission.

1 Nov

YES! Kick-Off Conference was awesome.  We’ve been buzzing in the news for the past week.  If you haven’t had the opportunity yet to check out what YES! youth have accomplished.  Check out the BUZZ section of our website to read, watch, and comment on articles written about YES!

What’s most powerful is that almost all of the articles feature the voices, words, and thoughts of our YES! leaders.  We forced the reporters to talk to the youth when they repeatedly asked to speak with a “diversity expert.”  We said, the youth are our experts, so talk to them.  And, they did!

Make sure to leave some comments about what you think.

YES! Highlighted on BOOST (Best Out Of School Time) Collaborative’s Newsletter!

1 Nov

YES! Highlighted in BOOST Newsletter November, 2011

 

YES! kick-off was highlighted in BOOST (Best Out Of School Time) Collaborative’s newsletter as an outstanding out-of-school program.  BOOST brings together hundreds of youth-serving organizations through their numerous programs that support these organizations to provide educational social services opportunities for young people.

Read what they wrote about YES! HERE.

(Is that Monson High School we see in the picture?!)

 

 

 

23 Oct

Charlie says YES!

23 Oct