A weekend of fun and educational activities for LGBTTTQQIAA HS youth hosted by students at a small university in Maine

Has RBW made an impact on your life?: “Knowing there a safe place and more people like me makes me safe.” “Hell yeah, I was able to understand better who I am.” “Met my partner of 3 years at RBW.” “Yes! Makes me want to share my knowledge and resources.”

Loved being able to attend and bring a group of students who acted as “counselors” for student groups or who volunteered in other ways. It was weird and beautiful to be with an attending group instead of hosting :).
Lin Gould as coordinator was amazing, she worked tirelessly and it showed with her attention to every detail, her students also worked very hard and the entire MDIHS was supportive including with a welcome by the principal, others helping through the weekend, and teachers giving up their classrooms for sleeping areas and workshops.  The school was a wonderful facility with the students running everything and they easily accommodated this huge group (>300).  One of the dinners was provided by three “local” UU faith groups. Thanks to all the numerous generous donors who made this weekend even possible!!!

The Rainbow Ball Village moved!!  Having a High School offer the weekend instead of a college was amazing. Most importantly having a high school take ownership of the weekend with the support of faculty, staff, and administration is a powerful message to LGBT youth and more importantly to other high schools. The message being that we support and honor our LGBT youth just like our other students. BTW, if you attended/brought youth, PLEASE! consider filling out the online evaluation form to help us establish what this experience has been doing over the years!

Youth shared their wonderful talents bravely Friday night with a crowd that would shout words of encouragement for fumbles and false starts instead of jeers. There were powerful performances by RBW returning professional drag queens, Chanel Honeywell and Lyzz Bien, Indigenous Diva,  as well as a quick-thinking empowering emcee.  The youth made tons of friends and were able express their identities freely.  They shared clothes and advice and songs and memes and praise.  There were workshops and crafts and the youth with helpful adults put out a resonating “zine”.  There was a “career expo” with various agencies and academic groups in attendance that encouraged dialog about career pathways.  25 copies of Dov Zellers’ The Right Thing to Do published by Tiny Golem Press were donated and distributed to attending schools and groups for library lending.  Two of many exceptional people working on behalf of LGBT youth were recognized by UMM’s 100% Society, Gia Drew, Program Director, Equality Maine and Tara Kierstead, School Counselor, Halldale High School.

There was a space for people to contribute clothing and bedding that were free for the taking.  There was HIV testing by the Health Equity Alliance.  There was a very powerful keynote address by Robin Fowler owner of the Maine Alpaca Experience.  She and her wife also brought Alpaca fiber and a spinning wheel to show to youth and offered for craft projects.  The dance was beautiful and for those who preferred more quiet, moderated dungeon and dragons games.  The folks from OUT Maine, the “forever home” of the Rainbow Ball weekend/festival, were in attendance for the weekend to observe and support as well.  Most of the steering committee who had worked so hard all year long to make sure RBW continued were there either with their school youth or helped with security or food distribution.

As the coordinator for the previous 10 years, it was incredible for me to be there personally to see the RBW continue and sustain.  Some of the UMM students in the past even brought youth groups to this year’s RBW. The evolution of high school student attendees serving as “counselors” after they graduate, and some even returning with their own groups themselves is magical.  The MDI HS had early on established themselves as a true high school partner bringing their own bus and crafts and activities for other youth to do.  OUT Maine in its former incarnation as the OUT As I Want To Be Rockland group was the first group to attend the first Rainbow Ball (2008) and was a regular source of communication, suggestions, and inspiration over so many years.  It feels like what the UMM students originally wanted to give to rural school LGBT youth has come full circle with more than we could have ever hoped for.  I’m so grateful for this vibrant network of loving people working so hard to improve the lives of these youth and the youth who will imagine themselves with futures in all types of careers and spaces and giving back to their community.

“Rainbow Ball doesn’t just change lives, it saves lives.” Ayrca LèStrange

 

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