Not long ago, at the Ward 1 Town Hall meeting held by Almost Mayor Vincent Gray, I did something I never thought I’d do at any political event. I walked out.
I was outraged. Had Vincent Gray, the man who will probably be Washington’s next mayor, just advocated fighting as a method for dealing with bullying and intimidation in D.C. Public Schools? You tell me.
If you see in the above video what I thought I saw, it sure sounded like it. I’m a trained journalist but this time my emotions on the issue got the better of me. There’s been a fair amount of press recently about LGBTQ teens and suicides in the Washington Post. Being our hometown newspaper, I would think Mr. Gray would have kept this in mind and adopted a different attitude when addressing such a question. Not to mention the perpetual problem of fighting, crews, and other forms of violence D.C. youth are often dealing with.
After walking out and calming myself down, I came back in and took a seat. I’d obviously gotten the attention of Mr. Gray’s staff, and one of his aides sat next to me trying to discuss the issue. I had come (along with a couple of staff and young people from CentroNía) to bring up entirely different issues and wanted to hear what he had to say about other questions before biting someone’s head off about this one.
After the rest of the meeting, I was hungry, still a little ticked off, and kind of tired. But I was ready to talk. An attractive young woman named Sefanit Befekadu identified herself as part of Mr. Gray’s campaign staff and explained that once I had made my point by walking out, he had clarified that he hadn’t meant to advocate violence. She insisted that he had been joking (it didn’t strike me as appropriate that he be joking about that in this particular setting, but there you go). She further told me about mentoring students herself and cringing when she had heard what Mr. Gray said.
Overall I was grateful that she took the time to talk with me, and I have all her contact info. She promised to email me to help start a broader dialogue on the issue of LGBT bullying, though she hasn’t yet. So I’d like to invite you to email me if you want to talk with her. I will be. Ariel at Publicmediacorps dot org.