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SDLC Day 1 (You Need To Read This)

Posted by Dirntbag , 07 December 2012 · 343 views

The short, dark-skinned man waltzed upon the stage. His hands flying in flamboyant gestures as he spoke in a somber tone "When did you start to cover yourself up? When did you give up on yourself? When did you start to put on a mask to hide your true self? I know that some of you here have come so far to be here. I know that some of you have traveled so far just to sit on this stage in this chair and have this conversation right here with me. And imma just sit in this chair, drinking my coffee, until someone comes up here to share. Now we can wait all day." Not ten seconds after the words had left his mouth, a tall girl stands up from the very back of the auditorium.

Crisp, strong, resounding applause resound throughout the auditorium as she strides down the steps. 1,384 faces look up to her, some, like mine, already prepared to stream down with tears. Tears crying for the souls that are ostracized in their homes. So alien in their dwellings that they are driven miles across the earth to reach an environment in which they feel it is safe to share their emotions. With people who you have not even spoken to - who have gathered her a mere hour ago; three people chose to share their stories. By the time the third was done, thousands were willing to share, all willing to stand before strangers and share their deepest thoughts. We were unified in a tense silence. A silence not enforced by teachers hushings or fear or guilt; just a simple respect for the speaker. We let them know that if they had the courage to share, then we had the courage to listen.

Half way through I broke down, just as the person on stage had done her best not to do completely. It only made me cry more when the person to my left reached over and embraced me as I cried; a stranger was allowing me to cry on his shoulder. As I wept, the girl on stage finished her story and people began to clap. It escalated into a cacophony of applause and then a standing ovation. I was still crying as we sat and the girl next to me choked out "That happened to me." I hugged her just as the stranger on my left had.

This is the SDLC orientation.

After we are calm once more, the three facilitators stand again. "We now request your complete and utter silence because we are going to do an exercise called silent movement." The room hushed. "We're going to call out several classes of identifiers - things that you define yourself by. When we call an identifier which applies to you, all we request is that you stand up. This is only if you feel safe enough to do so. If your identification is not called, it is still as important as if it were."

"The first identifier is age. If you identify as a freshman, please stand." The seats thunked as several people stood. "Look at the people standing, and look at the people sitting and reflect on the two places."

This process was continued for categories inside age, race, sexual orientation, religion, gender, ability, social-economic status and family structure. No one spoke a word throughout the process. The last question was a s follows "If you believe that you answered completely honestly to the last exercise please stand..."

"Now as we maintain this silence to reinforce the activity, reflect upon what you have just seen"

1,384 kids filed out in muffled shuffling.




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Today was my first day of my first year at SDLC (Student Diversity Leadership Conference) and so far I have already cried once. The first day was an amazing experience, it was extremely intense and it's so refreshing to know that a community of non judgmental people exists. Everyone is so kind, friendly and they all have a story to tell and something to contribute. I wish you all could be here with me because it's a truly life changing experience. It's currently 12:13 Houston Texas time (as the conference is held here this year) so I can only write out this morning part. The conference runs from 8:00 until about 11:00 every night, and I look forward to updating you more tomorrow.



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