Over the weekend I spoke at the vigil held in memory of Tre' Juan Figures, the 12 year old Anniston boy who killed himself one year ago after being pressured by gang members to join their group, and bullied because he wouldn't join.
The speakers were Jason Childs, founder and director of Center for Progress in Alabama, State Representative Barbara Boyd, Grace Episcopal Church (Anniston) Youth Minister Andy Harris, and myself, Joe Openshaw, Interim Chair for Equality Alabama.
Jason Childs speaking at the vigil
Jason Childs organized the event to honor Tre's memory and to bring attention to the continuing problem of bullying in this state.
State Representative Barbara Boyd told of her own experiences with bullying as a child and encouraged others with her story of success and how she overcame the perils of her childhood.
Andy Harris spoke about the choices we make stressing that we can (and should) choose kindness. He also spoke of his parents, both of whom took their own lives.
Jason Childs shared that when he was asked why he was holding a vigil for a child he didn't even know and was asked what Tre' was to him, he had to answer, "Nothing. That's the problem."
He explained that he will never know the difference this boy could have made as an adult, what he would have become, what the world is missing because of this loss, what the true cost of his untimely passing is.
I spoke about Equality Alabama's efforts in getting Alabama's anti-harassment policies strengthened, and said that this one tragedy was enough, we don't need another tragedy to remind us that something needs to be done.
Here are my remarks.
Tre Juan Figures Vigil
Tre's mother gave an emotional interview to the media. Here is Jason Childs and Veronica McGee, Tre's mom.
Here is a story about the event on ABC 33/40, and here is one from CBS 42, where you can read about or watch video of Ms. McGee.
Also over the weekend my editorial that I wrote for the Mobile Press-Register was printed and posted online, here.
The editorial also covers bullying among teens, but also the bullying that occurs in the military because of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Thank you Frances Coleman of the Press Register for asking me to do this.
This editorial has gotten at least 38 facebook posts, by far the most of any Press Register editorial of late, including those concerning the oil spill. To me this means that this is an issue of major importance to the public. The more people that read and understand these issues, the more pressure will be put of our state legislators and school board members, and on congress regarding DADT, to make a change. Please share.