Chicago-area LGBT youth and their supporters gathered at Thompson Center Plaza April 19 for Night of Noise to commemorate Day of Silence.
Every year, thousands of students take a vow of silence to call attention to the silencing effect of anti-LGBT bullying and harassment in schools. Locally coordinated by the Illinois Safe Schools Alliancean advocacy group promoting safety, support and healthy development for LGBT studentsNight of Noise serves as the culminating event to celebrate breaking that silence.
Following a youth speakout, organizers passed out petitions supporting advocacy for transgender and gender-nonconforming youth in Chicago public schools. The event also featured youth performances by the Lyons Township Steppers, spoken word by Daniel Hale Williams, drag performances by Leila Deluxe, and music by Annabelle Daily and Kata Bel Air. A dance party closed Night of Noise.
Youth organizers touted ally support as one of the most powerful aspects of Day of Silence, citing that many of the students who remain silent that day are not themselves LGBT people.
"Once I came out, I didn't know a lot of people like me. I didn't feel a lot of harassment, but I didn't want other people to feel harassment," said Joel Deleon, a youth committee member of the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance. "Day of Silence makes people realize that there are a lot of students who support the LGBT community."
Many youth participating in the event are working on individual projects in their school districts, like anti-bullying training for faculty and staff or instituting a GSA student group.
"Night of Noise brings youth together to celebrate all the work they did for Day of Silence," said Shannon Sullivan, executive director of Illinois Safe Schools Alliance. "It says a lot about young people making things better right now and not waiting for things to get better."
This year, the Legacy Project ( legacyprojectchicago.org ) teamed up with the Alliance and youth organizers to supply educators with LGBT history teaching materials, to combat anti-gay bullying by directly confronting the ignorance that makes it possible.
"I haven't been personally harassed, but I know people who have. I've been bullied not for my sexual orientation but for other things," said Katya Mazon, a youth committee member of the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance. "If I can prevent others from feeling the way I've felt, I want to do that."
LGBT youth of color also had a significant presence in organizing and attending the Night of Noise, which youth leaders attributed to the intersecting oppressions of race and sexual orientation.
"Sometimes the harassment hits the youth of color the hardest," said Mazon.
"If you're a minority, you know what it's like to be different from everyone else you see like you, and the LGBT community feels that too," said Deleon.
See www.illinoissafeschools.org .