Thursday, March 17, 2011

Parades, schools and karaoke.

I get so on top of other things and then fall behind on my blog! Last week was a fantastic mix of great schools and fun appearances. On Saturday, we had a rainy mess that turned into a great day at the Staten Island St. Patrick's Day Parade. Major thanks to all of the people who kept me dry and were flexible in the back and forth decisions reacting to the weather changes back and forth. I had a blast with our Miss NY Princess Ava and Kelli and Mary-Lou. I think Staten Island definitely loved seeing Miss Staten Island AND Miss NY in the parade; they're excited to have all the girls in June!

I had a few PFLAG schools this week in the Bronx and in West Harlem. In the Bronx, to be honest, it was a tough school - all transfer students who had been removed from or left their previous school. The school psychologist was a great support for me as he helped facilitate the conversation about equality, bullying and respect. Some students shared very vulnerable stories and as a result, I visibly witnessed a change in their peers' attitudes. At Columbia Secondary School, the kids were so talkative, adding such interesting elements to our dialogue. We talked about the trend that high school lesbians can be more accepted because "girls don't care and the guys think it's hot." Very interesting. We also had great discussions of how they define the word "gay" or when the first time they remember hearing it. In each class (5 groups of 60) they defined "gay" as happy, as when a man loves another man, as a derogatory term used as an insult, or as an umbrella term for LGBT. It was fascinating to hear about their introduction to the word. I think it continues to educate me as I speak to more groups of diverse ages, cultures and relations.

I must have been charging them with something very intense look.
I speak to schools specifically as Miss NY when I am booked through the organization, but I also speak a lot with PFLAG Safe Schools program. Obviously when kids are coming down for an assembly with Miss New York, they know who I am although I don't put the the crown on until the end. But in a PFLAG school they have no idea until I talk about advocacy and bring it out at the end when I talk about the importance of vocal straight allies, for example the straight celebrities in PFLAG NYC's Stay Close Campaign. At Columbia on Thursday, a girl raised her hand and thanked me, "I think it's really cool that you didn't tell us who your are until after you had shared your story with us because I really listened to you and believed you rather than thinking, 'she is just saying this and thinks we'll listen since she's famous.' But now I'm glad I know you're Miss NY because that's really cool and makes it even more meaningful since you told us after."  She got it. That is exactly the reason I do my presentations the way I do. I don't want someone to be distracted by a sparkly crown and miss what I'm actually saying. And then when you bring it out at the end, the crown not only represents my title of Miss NY but also is an emblem of courage, compassion, leadership and advocacy.

And then another fun appearance - I judged one of the Karaoke World Championship NYC preliminaries! It was awesome! There is so much hidden talent in NYC that needs to be discovered. Thanks to Michelle Kinney for the great opportunity.

The weekend will be in the next much to write about! Pics coming soon too -- I'm posting this from my phone on the train.

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