Challenging Communities to Create A World Where All Youth Are Safe

Challenging Communities to Create A World Where All Youth Are Safe
The National Youth Leadership Network, an organization led by disabled youth, grieves for the lives of youth that were recently lost and calls on communities to end violence

In the past five weeks, more than a dozen youth have committed suicide. All of these young people were targets of violence and bullying. They were part of – or thought to be part of – the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or queer (GLBTQ) community.

This news breaks our hearts. As an organization led by young people with disabilities, many of us have been bullied, too. We know what it’s like to be told that we are not worthy of life. We know what it means to be on the verge of suicide. Because of this, we want to speak about what is often left unspoken.  We want to emphasize the value of the lives that ended because of unjust judgment, hatred, and disrespect.  We want to call on our communities to be more accountable [responsible] to one another when people hurt each other. We want our communities to work end violence and bullying. We want to challenge our movements to create a world where youth do not resort to suicide or self-harm. We also want to grieve together about the loss of these lives and the feelings of emptiness, aloneness, and unworthiness that led to these events.

Here are some of the young people whose lives were recently lost:


Billy Lucas (15) September 9, 2010. Indiana
Cody J. Barker (17) September 13, 2010. Wisconsin
Seth Walsh (13) September 19, 2010. California
Tyler Clementi (18) September 22, 2010. New Jersey
Asher Brown (13) September 23, 2010. Texas
Harrison Chase Brown (15) September, 25 2010. Colorado
Raymond Chase (19) September 29, 2010. Rhode Island
Felix Sacco (17) September 29, 2010. Massachusetts
Caleb Nolt (14) September 30, 2010. Indiana
Aiyisha Hassan (20) October 5, 2010. Washington DC
Terell Williams (17) October 13, 2010 Washington
Corey Jackson (19) October 19, 2010. Michigan

We want to challenge our communities, specifically the Disability Rights Movement, to do the following: 

1.) Shift the work we do. We must change values. NYLN focuses on interdependence and building community support systems. We must talk about what it means to be a community and how we can really be accountable to each other.

2.  Actively work against violence. Billy Lucas was told to “go kill himself.” Asher Brown’s family said he was “bullied to death.” Bullying is violence. Our communities need to recognize violence so no one is alone in experiencing it.

3.) Say no to harmful media messaging. Media is in charge of so much of the messaging we get about GLBTQ community, people with disabilities, immigrants,
and others. We need to tell companies that we will not support them when they put out messages that perpetuate [spread] hatred. As disabled and GLBTQ youth, we must also put more effort into creating our own media so we can hear our own ries being told.

4.) Move beyond one-issue agendas. We could talk about bullying and not talk about violence or media. We could talk about it as a disability issue and not talk about GLBTQ youth. But violence does not fit into a one-issue agenda. If we are not connecting community experiences, we are not doing enough.

5.) Address the issues in all arenas. As of October 2010, only 45 states have addressed bullying in public schools.  We must make sure laws protect people everywhere.

We want to have these conversations in community. We hope you will join us.

Signed,
The National Youth Leadership Network

NYLN is an organization led by disabled youth for disabled youth. NYLN’s mission is to promote youth leadership and education. We teach youth how to advocate. Our goal is to make sure that youth with disabilities have the chance to set and reach their own goals. To contact us, please contact Betsy Valnes, our Executive Director. She can be reached at betsy@nyln.org or 866-480-6565 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              866-480-6565      end_of_the_skype_highlighting.

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