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An Open Letter To Oprah Winfrey
from Beth Reis, Public Health Educator and Co-Chair of the Safe Schools Coalition





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(Fabulous Independent Educated Radicals for Community Empowerment)

13-year-old Chad Hoopes
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Students unite against anti-gay protest
Rally at Whitman high school draws more than 500 people

April 29 2009
by Bradford Pearson | Staff Writer Original article


Charles E. Shoemaker/The Gazette
Walt Whitman High School junior Alyssa Sinkfield yells at Westboro Baptist Church members across the street during a protest at the school on Friday. More than 500 students from across the county and metropolitan area protested the anti-gay group, which visited the school because Whitman was believed to be a homosexual.


Walt Whitman High School staff and police commended students for organizing a nonviolent demonstration on Friday, as more than 500 people from across the county descended on the school for a counter-protest of an anti-gay group.

In response to a visit by members of the Westboro Baptist Church, students from Walt Whitman, Walter Johnson, Bethesda-Chevy Chase, Richard Montgomery and Rockville high schools peacefully protested against the group, holding gay-pride flags and posters preaching tolerance, reading poems by Walt Whitman and chanting "God doesn't hate."

"The students set a great example of how to be civil and respectful," said Whitman Principal Alan Goodwin. "The students were well-organized, and I'm very proud of them."

The Topeka, Kan., church has drawn attention in recent years for protesting the funerals of military veterans and for their picket signs — including "Thank God for 9/11" and "Thank God for Katrina." Members of the church believe that the military deaths and natural disasters were God's punishment for an immoral nation.

The church's Web site claims that American poet Walt Whitman, for whom the high school is named, would support wounded soldiers during the Civil War, then attempt to take advantage of them. The fact that Maryland school officials would name a school after Whitman, the site says, "certainly explains A LOT about Maryland, and specifically explains why God hates them so much."

Whitman's sexuality has long been debated.

In response to the church's planned protest, Whitman teachers spent recent weeks teaching students about the man their school was named after. English teachers focused on Whitman's poetry, while history teachers taught about civil disobedience and non-violence, two ideas espoused by Whitman.

In the month since the church announced the protest, three Whitman sophomores — Amar Mukunda, Ryan Hauck and Sahil Ansari — organized a group of more than 650 students in a Facebook group, and created and sold T-shirts with Whitman's face on them for students to wear during the protest.

"We're just here to say that this is not right, and to preach tolerance and respect," said Mukunda, 16, of Bethesda. "You can see by the numbers that people support tolerance."

In contrast to the more than 500 students who showed up for the counter-protest, seven members of the church protested across Whittier Boulevard from the students. Three of the protesters were elementary-school-aged children.

The church members held signs with gay epithets and sang "Filthy brats, God hates you," to the tune of John Denver's "Country Roads, Take Me Home."

"This school needs to see and hear this message," said Rebekah Phelps-Davis, 48, of Topeka, Kan. "… we go where the message needs to be heard."

More than 40 police officers were on hand, including five on horseback. There were no injuries or arrests at the protest, according to Montgomery County Police Second District Commander Capt. Russ Hamill.

Don Patera, an 18-year-old Whitman senior, said the church's claims are "ridiculous."

"God loves us all," he said. "And I think we've proved that, because despite all our differences we're showing a united front against this group. It's just amazing."




Long-Standing LGBT Social Service Organization Files for Bankruptcy

Feb 20 2009

Eight days after celebrating its 25th anniversary, Los Angeles’s Gay and Lesbian Adolescent Social Services has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, effectively ceasing operations immediately.

GLASS was the nation’s first long-term residential treatment program specifically for LGBT youths. The group currently operates residential group homes in Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Oakland that house 71 young people. The agency also provides transitional living space for about 25 teens aged 17-19 and secures foster homes for 50 youths.

“The staff is very upset,” says Terry DeCrescenzo, GLASS’s founder and executive director. “They may physically go to court and petition the court to reject the Chapter 7 and give us a Chapter 11.”

An anonymous source reported that upon hearing the news of GLASS's dissolution, one of the children under their care overdosed and was rushed to the hospital. "I am not at liberty to discuss the condition of any of the minors in the program," DeCrescenzo said. "But it should certainly come as no surprise under these circumstances, as [the children] face losing the only families they've ever known."

DeCrescenzo says a Chapter 11 bankruptcy would allow GLASS to continue operating while seeking additional funds through donations or loans. GLASS’s board of directors didn't believe the organization would be able to secure a loan or obtain enough donations at this time and therefore pushed for the Chapter 7, DeCrescenzo says. The group receives 90% of its funds from the cash-strapped California government and the rest from donations.

“We need two [million] to thrive,” DeCrescenzo says. “One [million] to survive.”

The young people in GLASS’s group homes will most likely go to state-run facilities, while those in the transitional living program will lose any outside assistance they were receiving, DeCrescenzo says.

DeCrescenzo worries for the transgender youths who will no longer have the specially trained GLASS staff -- 150 people now without jobs -- at their sides.

“I don’t see outside agencies having the skills, expertise, or heart to take care of these trans kids,” she says.

Neal Broverman and Rhiza Dizon, Advocate.com




Virginia gay youths agency gets word out
Richmond-area group is raising its profile

Jan 04 2008
By Robin Farmer
Times-Dispatch Staff Writer
original story

The address of the Richmond-area agency supporting youths who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or questioning their sexuality used to be passed along by word of mouth.

That low-key approach was to protect the young people, ages 14 to 20, served by the Richmond Organization for Sexual Minority Youth, which offers participants advocacy along with social, recreational and educational activities.

Now a rainbow gay-pride flag flies outside the agency, billowing high above ROSMY'S first exterior sign.

Since moving into new digs last summer, ROSMY is not only promoting its location at 2311 Westwood Ave. but trying to become more visible and viable in central Virginia.

"We are still working hard to get the message out there about the new space because ROSMY had kind of gone off people's radar," said John Dougherty, executive director of the 16-year-old organization.

"We're redefining what ROSMY means to the community. When people think of youth issues we want people to think of us," Dougherty said.

The organization also offers support groups, a youth-support hotline and leadership training as well as a 1,600-book library, the largest of its kind for sexual-minority youths in Virginia.

"We have kids coming here from Franklin city, Dinwiddie [County], well beyond the Richmond area," said board President Todd Anderson.

Marquise Murdock, 20, a student at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College, credits ROSMY for helping him gain confidence and develop leadership skills in the past two years.

"A lot of gay youth . . . youth period, go through an awkward time of growing. And when you add the gay thing and how you feel, you can't be yourself around people. ROSMY really does help you understand there are other people out there.

"You get some feeling of normalcy that you're not a complete freak. That's especially important for those who don't come from supportive homes," said Murdock, who serves in a leadership capacity for the organization.

. . .

Rebuilding, re-engaging and redefining ROSMY will continue to be the focus in 2008.

"We're going to begin advertising on youth-oriented radio stations right after Christmas," said Gregg Johnson, who was hired last month as ROSMY's director of marketing and development.

"Our Web site, www.rosmy.org, is also a great resource for youth and the broader GLBT community. Another goal is to keep donors and supporters better informed about what we're doing, and reconnect with past supporters.

"If we do a good job with that we hope to increase the percentage of our overall budget that is raised from individual donations so we're not as dependant on receiving grants from private foundations," Johnson said.

"We also hope to raise the necessary funds to expand our youth center and library and offer meeting space to other community organizations," Johnson said.

ROSMY will continue to develop its Community Outreach and Education Program, which trains school personnel, social-services workers, mental-health workers and other youth-services professionals on how to meet the needs of sexual-minority youths.

This year 123 people were trained, and the agency was recently funded to train up to an additional 500 people, Dougherty said. Individuals and agencies that receive such training are listed, if they choose to be, on ROSMY's Web site as safe resources.

The agency also is seeking tax-deductible donations to provide additional resources to young people. Items needed include sponsoring a young person to participate in a prejudice-awareness conference for $400 and purchasing a DVD player for the youth center. To see the complete list, go to www.rosmy.org/wish_list.html.

Corwin Ranier, 18, travels from Gloucester County to participate in ROSMY activities.

His mom drives him an hour each way two to three times a week.

"When I first started, I was nervous," Ranier said. "It was the only outlet I have. I live in a conservative place. It allowed me to have new friends and get really involved in the activities ROSMY supports. It's given me a real purpose."

Ranier said that although mainstream culture in some ways is less intolerant of sexual minorities than it used to be, much work remains.

"Until all bigotry is removed and it finally feels perfectly normal and not unusual to be gay, ROSMY needs to be here. It opens you up to a very supportive place where you can talk openly about yourself. It's nonjudgmental; it builds people's confidence. There aren't many groups like this, especially ones as powerful as ROSMY."

Contact Robin Farmer at (804) 649-6312 or rfarmer@timesdispatch.com.




Ward Connerly and Prof. Richard Sander:
Promoting an Ideology of Racism

BAMN Confronts 'Commemoration' of Prop. 209's End to Affirmative Action
Nov 05 2007--By Any Means Necessary (BAMN) high school and college students in Los Angeles picketed and confronted Ward Connerly and Prof. Richard Sander at UCLA. Click this link for a video of the event.

From BAMN's statement handed out at the event:
We will not overcome racism or racist inequality by refusing to recognize it or speak its name. We must expose it and decry it boldly and loudly — black, Latino, white, Asian, Arab, men, women, gay and straight — standing shoulder to shoulder, demanding and winning equality.





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