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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Student group to try to help mend Troy's wounds

  • An Open Letter to the Press and Public

    In December 2011, about a dozen citizens of Troy got together independently of any outside group or political cause to discuss a major problem in the city of Troy. The group recognized Troy as a very diverse community with members from many different faiths, cultures, and belief systems. Everyone was in agreement that this was an asset to the community at large, as diversity leads to understanding, new ideas, and progress. However, the group recognized that a small minority of Troy’s residents view diversity as a problem and understanding as impossible.

    The group decided to call itself CARE: The Troy Diversity Coalition (CARE is an acronym for Celebrate, Accept, Respect, and Empathize). The mission of the group is to promote the respect for all people regardless of race, religion, orientation, or background. The group is planning on holding events and workshops open to the whole community and surrounding region that will help the group reach its goal of mutual respect between every group in Troy.

    The meeting that led to the creation of CARE was called in order to discuss the offensive Facebook post and subsequent statements by the mayor of Troy, Janice Daniels. Much has been said about the political effects of her post, but it is often forgotten or overlooked that members of our community, young and old residents of Troy, were directly offended and hurt by her words. Lack of respect, a major problem with our society, was shown strongly by the de facto representative of Troy. The minority that the mayor slurred already has to deal with bullying, rumors, and nasty looks on a day to day basis, so having the mayor say something like this was hurtful to many individuals, gay and straight alike.

    Shortly after CARE’s first meetup, members of the Troy High Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA), a non-school sponsored club functioning independent of CARE, met with the mayor to discuss moving forward in a positive direction. Eventually, both the mayor and the students were in agreement that an event open to the community, but targeted to the GSA, would be held. The event would be called “Prevention, Healing, and Forgiveness” and it would allow for the mayor, as well as two additional local leaders outside of government to speak to the crowd about the issue at hand. The students would choose one of the speakers, and the mayor would choose the other. The event was to be held in January 2012. Mayor Daniels said she would contact the students as soon as possible with dates that the event could be held.

    The students went to CARE and talked about organizing the event. The group decided to contact Amy Weber, a local filmmaker and youth mentor, about speaking at the event. Meanwhile, members of CARE emailed and called the mayor on their own time throughout the next three weeks, but received no response. The IT department for the city of Troy has said that the email accounts for city council members have been having issues, but an email was also sent to her campaign email address and phone calls were not mentioned by IT. Amy Weber decided to come to the mayor’s office hours at the Troy Community Center to follow up an email she wrote to the mayor. Students and members of CARE, Skye Curtis and Zach Kilgore, joined her.

    At this meeting, the understanding of the event had changed, as the mayor presented it back to Amy Weber and CARE members. Instead of an anti-bullying event, she was now favoring an anti-suicide event that would not mention bullying or the situation that has led us to where we are today. The mayor also shared personal views and plans for the event that CARE found extremely disturbing, such as bringing in psychiatrists that would state that the homosexal lifestyle is "dangerous". While CARE supports and plans to focus on suicide prevention, the group believes that including this testimony would be damaging to the already struggling community and would send a message, once again, that the city of Troy does not support all of its residents. But most importantly, the message that this type of testimony would send to a gay or lesbian individual already struggling with suicidal tendencies would be counter-productive to a suicide prevention message.

    CARE has decided to continue moving forward with the event. On behalf of CARE, Amy Weber presented at Monday night's city council meeting, welcoming parents, students, council members, and anyone in the community to attend an event to bring the community together in a celebration of peace and diversity. In the coming months, the group will be hosting this major multimedia event with video presentations, live music, and speakers that will celebrate peace, respect, and love. The event will be non political, and it will focus solely on helping parties in the community reach a mutual understanding. We will change this unfortunate, negative episode into a positive campaign that promotes unity and respect amongst the city of Troy and the surrounding region. More information will be released soon.

    Finally, as previously stated, the mayor brought up several of her personal viewpoints during her office hours that caused much emotional contention. Specifically, Mayor Daniels said that if an anti-suicide rally with students from Troy's Gay-Straight Alliance were to be held, she would bring psychiatrists to say that the homosexual lifestyle is dangerous. Amy Weber immediately responded, and the Mayor and Weber both started speaking loudly and passionately. During this exchange, in the midst of the emotional turmoil and context of depressed and suicidal students, Skye Curtis believed she heard the Mayor say that homosexuality was a mental disease. Acting as an independent party away from CARE, Curtis, frustrated at what she interpreted, posted a Facebook status about the event, a status which quickly went viral and caused an internet cavalcade of "He said, she said" that drew away from the core issue of the prospective peace rally. Curtis would like to take responsibility for the misunderstanding that she publicly shared, and also stands by the fact that she's deeply disturbed by the mayor's statement that the homosexual lifestyle is dangerous, and hopes that the public, too, will be unsettled once the Mayor's taped record of the conversation comes to light in consistency with her policy of full disclosure.

    CARE invites anyone and everyone interested in helping the group reach its goal of mutual respect to join. Information can be found on our Facebook page at the bottom of this press release.

    Zach Kilgore
    Youth representative of CARE

    CARE Facebook:

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