Monday, February 28, 2011

Michigan Civil Rights Commissions wants to hear your bullying stories

Have you been bullied? Is there a climate of fear around you? Does anyone hear your inner cry?
If you have been bullied, the Michigan Civil Rights Commission wants to hear your story. You are not alone and you will be heard.

Today, March 1, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Grand Rapids' Union High School,1800 Tremont Blvd. NW, testimony and stories will be taken and local supporters of anti-bullying efforts will make their voices heard. I will be there. So will representatives from schools, non-profit organizations and others in the community who want to ensure that your voice is heard.

A number of guest speakers will be present to speak about bullying, but the Commission really wants to hear from you, your personal stories.

The event will be at 1800 Tremont Blvd. NW at Union High School. Partners include: Kent Intermediate School District, Grand Valley State University, Grand
Rapids Community College, the City of Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids Public Schools, the Hispanic
Center of Western Michigan and the Wyoming Community Youth Coalition.

The Michigan Civil Rights Commission is taking bullying seriously. "We have taken up this issue because of the long-term, negative psychological and social impacts of bullying and harassment. People must be treated equally and fairly, whether at work, online, at school or in society in general. Working with other civil and human rights organizations, we are trying to raise
public awareness about this issue,” stated Matthew Wesaw, Chair, Michigan Civil Rights Commission.

Bravo to the Michigan Civil Rights Commission. Blessings, and bravo to you who come forward to tell your story.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Grand Rapids' PFLAG?

By Theresa D. McClellan
Faith Advocacy Coordinator
Gays In Faith Together.

In this month of love and history, I have excitedly been preparing for future "Gay Christian? Yes!" collaboratives.

As we engage with more churches, encounter young and old ones who recognize themselves in the face of God, and hold up the ones who have been told God does not see them, I see the need for a Grand Rapids PFLAG.

I am not alone. Last night, I had the honor of meeting with a small group of people who are wondering if Grand Rapids could sustain an organization that works to support the parents and friends of the LGBT community.

There is already a lively and wonderful Holland/Lakeshore PFLAG chapter in Holland. I have attended their third Friday of the month meetings at Grace Episcopal Church, 555 Michigan Avenue, Holland where parents share with one another their joys and concerns, members of the LGBT community find solace among supportive parents, and the power of numbers dispel the mindset that one who loves someone that looks like them is abnormal.

An exploratory meeting will be held 7 p.m. Tuesday March 29 at Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ, 4010 Kalamazoo Ave. SE.

Plymouth, an open and affirming church, has been discussing the need and interest in PFLAG but didn't want to initiate a program since it should be parent-led. Around the same time, Nadirah Kharmai, a talented young video producer and GVSU graduate found the Holland chapter and was led to talks with Plymouth pastor the Rev. Doug VanDoren.

After much discussion other interested parties pulled together and met Tuesday night. After the meeting, Nadirah Kharmai issued this press release seeking more community input:

"Hi all:
A small team has gotten together to explore the avenue of creating a chapter of PFLAG here in Grand Rapids. Here are a few of questions the group has raised: Is there a need? Will parents and families come for support, and in turn, support others? Are there parents out there who will take on leadership positions?

We are looking for a group of enthusiastic leaders who have the time and passion to join us for a larger exploratory meeting where we will unpack the questions mentioned above.

There is an exceptional need for straight parents who have LGBTQ children to join us at our meeting. Everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, has a coming out story.

Join our next discussion, bring your thoughts and ideas, and celebrate advocacy with us on March 29 at 7 p.m. at Plymouth United Church of Christ, 4010 Kalamazoo Ave. SE."


I say excellent news Nadira. My hope is that a Grand Rapids PFLAG, heavily supported by parents, will occur and it will serve to be yet one more resource of hope, support and advocacy for the LGBTQ community.

I will be asking the 27 gay-friendly churches on our GIFT website to post this information and query their congregation.

I especially see this need as we engage more churches in becoming affirming and welcoming to the LGBTQ community. If you as a parent would like to know more ways to support our adult and adolescent gay offspring feel free to contact