Monday, July 05, 2010
Marching For Respect
I haven't worked so hard for a very long time. Vita was part of the Pride parade but we had determined that we wouldn't just 'be' in the parade, we wanted to 'work' the parade. As the parade is, in part, a celebration of diversity. We thought we'd come with a message. We had some 'Words Hit' cards printed up with a message:
Our goal was to get as many as we could into the hands of those watching the parade. There were millions of people watching. We had to wait for nearly two hours to start marching, so I went up and down the line and found as many marching groups as I could that I thought really could use the cards, teachers federations, summer camps for kids, disability transport services, the works. I approached them, told them who Vita was and what our message was and handed out the cards.
They were wildly well received. One teachers group I spoke to got all excited about them and asked for a bunch for their school. One teacher said that she hated the 'R' word and taught her kids that it's mean. The kids used the excuse that 'everyone says it' and 'it's just a habit'. She taught them that if they start saying 're ...' to catch themselves and change the ending to 'diculous'. The kids thought that was 'fun' and she's elimiated it from her classroom.
Then the march happened. It was wonderful to see Vita members and staff walking down the street passing out thousands of cards. It was also wonderful to see people taking a second and reading what the cards had to say. Tessa, our neighbour, came along and allowed us to use her scooter to carry the cards. She said at one point she looked up and saw that on both sides of the street that there were at least a hundred people reading the cards. 'Some people stopped using that word today,' she said, 'and the others will use it, now, with growing discomfort.'
We also had some of those plastic bracelets made up. They were in a bright shade of lime green and they had a message imprinted on them, 'Words Hit'. On the other side was our email address 'vitacls.org'. We managed to get a special button on the site that will take you to information about the cards. There you will find 3 facts about the word and 5 things you can do to raise awareness about what it means and why we shouldn't use it. Again, people put the bracelets on right away. Hopefully they will go home, look at it and go and investigate.
So we worked, and laughed, and waved, and had a wonderfully good time. Vita's mission is summed up simply, 'providing safety, practicing respect, promoting community'. For the whole march, we accomplished mission. How good does that feel!
When it was all over we gathered and gave Luke Lynn a huge cheer for coming forward and suggesting the idea and then, once supported, took on setting up an LGBT group in the organization and making things happen so that the day was possible. Then we gave a cheer for Vita for making a safe place for 'all'. Then, tired and hot, we all went our separate ways.
I'd had enough and wanted home and air conditioning. We came up Yonge street, after the parade had passed by and then I noticed something. We had handed out thousands of cards. Though the street was covered in garbage (who brings up these people) there wasn't one, not one, card laying on the ground. They'd obviously been tucked away in peoples pockets, purses and wallets. And maybe, just maybe, in a conscience or two.