For a single day, a line of compassion will form in the tangential meeting of closed lips: for a single day, people across the nation will have a brief glimpse of what it’s like to be unable to speak out for themselves. This day is called the Day of Silence, a day thats purpose is to bring attention to the oppression of members of the LGBTQIA [Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersexual, and asexual] community.
Today is that day.
Organized at Kennedy by Club PRISM [People Respecting Individual's Sexual Mentality], Kennedy’s gay-straight alliance club, and FAB [Friends Against Bullying], PRISM sponsor of three years Colleen Kollasch explains the purpose of the Day of Silence.
“It is a day that is organized for the United States to recognize the silence that is faced by the LGBTQIA community. In recognition of the silence in [students] not being able to be themselves for fear of discrimination, bullying, harassment, that kind of thing,” she said.
“It’s to get as many people as we can to not talk for a day as a kind of symbolic gesture to those who feel like they are silenced on a daily basis for not being able to be themselves. So it’s just kind of a way to bring awareness to the situation.”
Founded in 1996, thousands of schools have participated in the anti-bullying/awareness movement. The Day of Silence works like this: Students will be taking a vow of silence, meaning that they can not utter a word all day—not to teachers, to classmates, or to friends. Students participating in Day of Silence can be identified by wearing a yellow slip of paper about the size of a note card on their clothes or can communicate their partaking by just handing the paper to other people. Even though the goal is for participants to be completely mute, they can still communicate via white board or notebook.
Senior officers of Club PRISM, which hosts about five regular members, Mindy Marvin, sr., and Devon Bruce, sr., explain the Day of Silence and the meaning of it to them.
“I think the quiet way of protesting is always more powerful than being loud because people are going to see you that you’re being silent, and your friends are going to want you to talk and then they’re going to hear the cause that you’re fighting for,” Marvin said.
“It represents the silencing effect that bullying on the LGBTQ community which is people being to scared to come out,” Bruce explained.
Last year, PRISM printed out about 400 yellow cards to hand out, which they said ran out quickly. This year, they printed out 600. “I think this year is definitely bigger, just locally in this school,” Bruce said.
On the morning announcements April 19, Dr. Mary Wilcynski, principal, stood up alongside Marvin and Bruce as they went to tell the school about the Day of Silence, and strongly helped advocate their cause for them.
“I was just remembering the years before when I’ve seen people, like my group of friends, come up and try to tease their friends in to try to talk and I just think it’s rude when you’re fighting for such a serious cause, because there are people who have died over this before. And I just thought it was really sweet that Dr. W came up and put her arm around me. It was really great that she came up and just that she is really supportive about the cause,” Marvin said.
“It really made me proud that we actually have such just a supportive school,” Bruce said.
Both Marvin and Bruce said that their teachers were very supportive, though they have had problems with bullying and ignorance in school from other students.
“Whenever I talk to people about it [Club Prism], people are like—” Marvin dropped her voice in mock imitation, “‘Oh, you’re the president of the gay club?’ No, it’s not the gay club, it’s the gay-straight alliance.”
“We want to emphasize equality, not supremacy,” Bruce said.
On April 24-25, Club PRISM will have bake sales in the morning and during lunch to help support Club PRISM. On the 25, which is Kennedy’s ally day, the bake sale will also feature a poster where people can sign to be an ally.
A final word, before the silence. “I want to help students here kind of feel like they have a safe environment, that they can be themselves if they chose to. I also think it’s a human race issue that every should be treated equally regardless of their sexual orientation. And if we can provide that to them, that is fantastic,” Kollasch said.
Story by Bailey Zaputil
Interview with Kollasch by Steph Mercer