Denver Teacher’s Strike: Day 3

UPDATE: Today marks the third day of the Denver Teacher’s Strike, as the DCTA and Denver Pubic Schools work to reach a contract agreement that provides teachers with meaningful compensation for the countless hours they dedicate to our communities. As educators ourselves, Collage Colorado stands with our teachers. We will keep families updated regarding alternate locations for classes this Friday, should the need arise. In the meantime, please show your support to our teachers by emailing Superintendent Susana Cordova, and tell her how important Denver’s educators are to you!

To the DCTA and teachers across the city and beyond: we see you, we hear you, we are with you!

Spirit Day & #WhenIBegan


Spirit Day is an annual celebration organized by GLAAD, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (though in reality, they are so much more), as a day of solidarity against bullying and bigotry, and particularly for LGBTQ+ folks.

From GLAAD’s #SpiritDay launch page:

“Spirit Day is a means of speaking out against LGBTQ bullying and standing with LGBTQ youth, who disproportionately face bullying and harassment because of their identities. Pledging to “go purple” on Spirit Day is a way for everyone — forward-thinking companies, global leaders, respected celebrities, neighbors, parents, classmates, and friends — to visibly show solidarity with LGBTQ youth and to take part in the largest, most visible anti-bullying campaign in the world.”


From Cameron, Founder of Collage Colorado, LLC
Originally Published on Facebook October, 2014

I tell this story today in honor of #spiritday, a campaign against bullying. I’ve told this story in confidence to a small number of people in my life, but today for the first time I am going to share it publicly. I won’t name names. I don’t want pity. I made my peace with this event years ago.

TRIGGER WARNING: LGBT bullying, sexism, misogyny, physical assault, and some language. I want to warn you now that what I am about to describe is not pretty, and I will not censor it; that may be triggering for some, and if it is, I fully understand if you don’t keep reading.

All of my life I’ve been a small guy. Heck, I’m 5’5” NOW (and I ain’t growin’ any taller, let me assure you). In high school, I wasn’t just short, I was also pretty meek. I read a lot, raised my hand in class all the time, and spent as much time talking to teachers as I did talking to peers. I was a nerd.

I don’t know when he first targeted me. He was an upperclassman, a year or so ahead of me. At some point he decided I was gonna be his proverbial punching bag. I don’t know why. I don’t care. All I know is that we had Spanish together for a year, and sometime during that year he decided that I was the kid who was going to take his assaults.

At first, it was all verbal. Every day, he would find some reason to call me “gay” or “fag” or “queer”. I didn’t know how to respond. Once or twice maybe I told him to “f*** off”, but guaranteed that didn’t change a thing. The teacher apparently didn’t know how to respond either. If she overheard him calling me something, she’d meekly reprimand him, but that’s about it. It hurt me a lot (and yes, I am gay, I am queer, but that’s beside the point). I don’t know if I cried. I do know that at the time, it made me hate myself, and it made me hate going to class. But I had no choice. I wanted to go to college. I lived in a tiny little town, part of a regional district that took three whole towns to make one high school. My parents couldn’t afford private school. I had no options, I had to stay.

If it had stayed verbal, I probably could have dealt with the assaults. It didn’t. One day I came to class; like any other day I hiked the stairs of the old school, and got to class a little early (I never used my locker… I don’t even remember where it was, but it would have been a joke trying to get to it and then to class without being chewed out for being late). That day, the teacher wasn’t there yet, but he was, as well as most of the class. I think he was waiting for me. I got to the door and he was standing there in the frame. He wouldn’t let me in. I tried to push past him, but he was a good deal bigger than me. I got frustrated, and was about to walk away when he pulled the pointer out.

It was one of those old, three-and-a-half foot long wooden pointers with a bullet-shaped rubber tip, and a short nail in the back end to hang it on the wall, near the chalkboard. He scratched my arm with it. I was horrified. I didn’t know what to do. He scratched again, on my other arm. And again. I started to walk away… I don’t know where I thought I was going, but I sure as heck wasn’t going to stand there. When I turned around to leave, he scratched me, HARD, on the back of my neck. I was trying to walk away down the hall when the teacher walked up. She didn’t notice the scratches. I tried to tell her what happened, but she was flustered, and told me to go in and sit down. I did.

After Spanish class, I had lunch. There, my friends noticed the scratches, which were bleeding and swollen. I explained what happened. They told me to go to the nurse… I resisted a bit, but finally agreed and asked some teacher for permission to leave. The nurse was shocked. She put Neosporin on the cuts. She told me she had to tell the principal. I begged her not to; I was so scared. I went back to lunch, and then to my next class. Sometime during that class, I was called to the vice-rincipal’s office. I explained what happened. The vice-principal asked if I wanted to do anything about it. I said yes. His response? If I wanted him to do anything about it, I would have to sit and tell my “side” with the other kid there, next to me. I refused… I was so scared. He said if that was the case, there was nothing he could do. I left. I cried in my next class. Quietly.

When I got home, my parents noticed the cuts. They were really obvious. I told them what happened; my dad was furious. I’ve maybe never seen him so angry. He went into the other room and called the school. I remember him shouting really loudly. He told me when he came back that they’d promised to suspend the other kid. I didn’t feel much better. A little bit, maybe.

The next day, I went to school. The guy who’d cut me was there, too. In Spanish. Walking the halls. The next day, too. And the next. I don’t know who told me, but I asked someone (a teacher, maybe) what was going on. They told me his mom was on the school board, and that she had insisted there was “no way he could have done such a thing!” He was never suspended. He was never punished. I had physical scars for a year. I hated that guy for longer… more years than I’m proud to admit. I wanted some sort of retribution. At some point I let it go, but it tainted – it scarred – a part of my soul for a long time.

Please never take bullying lightly. I recovered. My scars healed, but so often, and for so many, they never do. So many beautiful lives are lost each year to the trauma of bullying. Please, no more. Never again.


#WhenIBegan

If you read all the way through our first-ever Revolutionary Read of the Month post a few days ago, or you’ve been looking around the site recently, you probably saw this mentioned. #WhenIBegan is a hashtag campaign that we’re starting at Collage Colorado… and it needs your help! If you haven’t already, check out the #WhenIBegan hashtag campaign page!

Watch the intro video below!

We’re Going Purple for Spirit Day!

Thursday, October 18th is Spirit Day this year, GLAAD’s day of solidarity against LGBTQ+ bullying, and to show our support we’re making our logo purple across the interwebs for the week, and we’d love to see you do the same! Join us in standing up for LGBTQ youth, and make your social media profiles purple, too.

Also, keep an eye out for a special Spirit Day article later this week!

The Shop is Officially Open!

Find it on Facebook!

Although our shop is not Collage’s primary focus, it is an important part of the work that we do; sales from our shop fund the classes and enrichment programs that we run in Denver Public Schools. Thank you so much for your interest in our work!

Beyond Revolutionary Reading Part I: Apps

Banned Books Week has begun, and of course the focus this week is on the books! Still, that doesn’t mean that books should have the spotlight alone; there are lots of other resources like music, apps, and movies, that can supplement what you or your Revolutionary Readers are already doing.

Today, we’re focusing on apps for your phone or tablet.

Apps:

Our go-to Revolutionary Reader apps here at Collage…

Yes, there really is an app for everything. Apps can be a fantastic way to step up your reading game in more ways than you might expect; there aren’t just ones to find or read books, there are also plenty to help you build your reading and even activist community, and a whole lot more.

Below are a list of apps we at Collage like to use when we’re looking for ideas for what to read next:

  • We Read Too | This app is specifically designed for children and families of color, to help connect folks to books by, for, and about marginalized communities. Given this and We Read Too‘s simple and intuitive interface and guided suggestions, make it a wonderful tool for anyone looking to expand their library.

We Read Too

  • YALSA’s Teen Book Finder | Where We Read Too is an app largely geared toward slightly younger readers, the Teen Book Finder app from YALSA (the Young Adult Library Services Association, a division of the American Library Association) is, not surprisingly, built for out tween and teen learners. The app suggests an ever-changing list of new books, breaks down lists of fantastic reads based on year, genre, author, awards, and more, and gives students a number of ways to search for new books to read, regardless of theme or controversy. LGBTQ+ students may be especially delighted to find several lists just for them in the app, too!

Teen Book Finder by YALSA

  • Goodreads | Goodreads is, at its core, social media for readers. The app provides a simple, easy-to-use platform to build a reader community with friends, family, and beyond. Although lots of kids books are covered as well (and intrepid younger readers can definitely enjoy the app, too), Goodreads is definitely geared more toward mature readers.

Goodreads

  • Audible | If you’re reading this on a phone or tablet, there’s a good chance that you’ve heard of Audible, the audiobook arm of Amazon. Audible is a fantastic app for all readers, but is especially handy for supporting younger readers, or those struggling to pick up skills. It can be used in conjunction with paper texts to give students another way to access the content, and can help kids build excitement around reading. And besides, who doesn’t love being read to?

Audible

  • Merriam-Webster Dictionary | This app makes the list simply because everyone should have an easy-to-access dictionary when reading, and considering that Merriam-Webster’s is free, it’s an easy choice!

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Of course, these are far from the only reader apps out there; these just happen to be our favorites here at the moment. If there are others that you love to use, let us know in the comments below!

Banned Books Matter

Happy Banned Books Week, Collage Fam!

What’s Up With Banned Books Week?

This year, Banned Books Week begins today (Sunday, September 23rd, 2018). Banned Books Week is a pretty big deal for us here at Collage, but before I explain why, maybe I should explain what exactly it is.

“We would argue that [Banned Books Week] is at its core a celebration freedom of speech and the fight for civil rights.”

First and foremost, it is a celebration each year of books that have been censored, challenged, or banned entirely from schools, libraries, and other places that gather literature. National organizations such as the American Library Association (a major supporter of Banned Books Week) keep extensive lists of what books are being challenged or kept out of libraries, and encourage discussions about why books might be banned. Banned Books Week is a chance to bring that discussion to the forefront; more than that though, we would argue that it is at its core a celebration of freedom of speech and the fight for civil rights.

How?

That goes back to why books are banned in the first place. The common perception is that books are banned for people’s “safety” – because they contain words, or topics, or ideas that some group has deemed dangerous in some way. And while it’s certainly true that there have occasionally been books that were banned because they gave dangerous information (such as how to build a bomb), the reality is that a whole lot more were banned for a far more sinister reason: censorship, and the silencing of certain people’s voices.

“It doesn’t make it any easier for a kid to come out, or to feel welcome in their skin wherever they go, if all the voices like theirs are hidden, forbidden, gone.”

If you look at the graphic above, you’ll see that although some books are challenged because they are “pervasively vulgar” (meaning they have a lot of bad language or potentially inappropriate content), still more are banned for political reasons (and not always friendly ones), and many others never see shelves simply because they portray People of Color, racism, or LGBTQ+ characters. Keeping those books away from folks is pretty darn silencing of people for whom those are daily experiences. It doesn’t make it any easier for a kid to come out, or to feel welcome in their skin wherever they go, if all the voices like theirs are hidden, forbidden, gone.

“Banning Books Silences Stories…”

By now I bet you’ve started to guess why Banned Books Week is so important to us here at Collage; it’s no secret that a big part of our mission as an organization here is to elevate the voices of as many people as we can. We believe that by doing this, we elevate the conversation, and build greater community. It’s even written in our Mission Statement.

We believe that censoring and banning books largely hurts our society and our communities, and especially marginalized communities and communities of color. It very clearly silences them. Destroying stories destroys culture, and ruins the legacy we leave for future generations. It’s up to all of us to stop that.

Join us all this week, as we celebrate Banned Books, Revolutionary Readers, and making our voices heard!


Take a look at the list of the Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2017, courtesy of bannedbooksweek.org and the ALA. See one that looks interesting? Maybe pick it up and take a look. It might be banned, but it’s almost certainly awesome.

Kicking Off Collage @ Odyssey School of Denver!

Happy Friday, Collage Fam! Today marks a very special day for us at Collage… today is the first day of student courses at Odyssey School of Denver! Keep an eye out here for details and more as the first course unfolds!