People often question why I do what I do and why I am so vocal in helping others.
My simple answer is because someone has to do it and I really and truly believe that we can help bring about change.
Last Friday morning when I found out that our beloved alma mater, Cardinal Spellman High School, was going to host a controversial Anti-Gay speaker at the school I was heartbroken.
I came to Cardinal Spellman High School as a freshman in September of 1989 from a relatively small parochial grade school in the South Bronx.
St Anselm’s, on Tinton Avenue, was all I knew from Head Start straight through 8th grade graduation. You can imagine the culture shock I faced on that day when I went from a class of about 50 in two 8th grade home rooms to a freshman class of over 600 – the largest entering freshman class in Spellman’s history at that point.
As a student in Spellman, I was suddenly different. Where in St Anselm’s we were pretty much all students of color, here I was in sea of multiculturalism. Different. Being gay compounded that fact even further.
But even with a student body that numbered over 2,000 students, the faculty knew us personally and throughout my four years, I felt nothing but compassion and understanding from these mentors. This is why I was disturbed upon hearing that a representative of an organization that lacks this compassion was going to speak at our school.
What contradictory messages were the LGBTQ students to receive if this speaker were to address the Spellman family when being told that they “suffer from an affliction”?
Haven’t we had enough teen suicides from LGBTQ youth because they felt ostracized? This coupled with the fact that Spellman is one of the most academically challenging and demanding schools in the region was not a good combination.
Rather than doing nothing, I immediately wrote a plea to my fellow Spellman graduates to email or call the school and tell them that they would withhold any donations to the school if this meeting took place.
And they did.
I am so proud of our classmates and especially Carlos Solano who was the first one I contacted. He immediately spread the word like fire, wrote an impassioned open letter to the principal, got everyone organized and almost immediately our voice grew to hundreds and hundreds.
The media took note and it culminated in an excellent and balanced article in the New York Times late last night.
And guess what? All you naysayers who thought we were fighting a hopeless battle against one of the oldest institutions were proven wrong this morning as Cardinal Spellman High School has CANCELED tonight’s meeting.
Cardinal Spellman provided us with an unparalleled education, including its religious program which taught us of the compassion of Christ and his acceptance of others, particularly the most marginalized.
We are the result of over 50 years excellence the school has provided. We are the leaders they have produced across the world.
In the ultimate moment of irony, we the students came together and became the teachers using the very skills we were taught by our alma mater.
I have always been fiercely proud of being a Spellman alumn but never prouder than this very moment.
Thank you for all of your support. We truly couldn’t have done it without you.
To our fellow Spellman LGBTQ students: You are not alone and we are here for you. Always.