Monday, December 15, 2014

The Rehtaeh Parsons Society - Launch Day

I have followed the Rehtaeh Parsons story since the beginning.

Whether it's because it happened so close to home, or because I have teenage boys that I'm trying to raise to be good, decent men, or because I'm a woman who can still remember being a teenage girl, or because I am horrified that so many people who were supposed to help her, didn't, or because I am angry that so many of her classmates and friends took part in her endless online torture, or because as a Mom, my heart aches for her parents, or because Rehtaeh chose to take her life and died the day before my son's 13th birthday?

I don't know why.  

I just know I have a passion for this girl and her family to finally receive some sort of justice and peace.  

I would like to see healing for their community and CHANGE in so many things, especially cyber-bullying laws, so what happened to Rehtaeh will never have been in vain.

Peace and healing will come over time.

But as a society, there are things we can do now to make changes for the future.

Rehtaeh's parents have taken every opportunity to speak to the public about her story, and have spent endless hours educating our kids and communities and law makers on how we can prevent cyber-bullying, and offer support to victims of violence, sexual assault and harassment.

I think people genuinely want to help, and believe strongly in these causes, but may not be sure how best to initiate or influence those much needed changes.

Rehtaeh's parents are hoping to provide communities and the youth within them with the tools required to address these issues, through the launch of the not-for-profit, Rehtaeh Parsons Society.


Through this society, overseen by a board of directors, they hope to, 'engage our youth and concerned members of our communities by implementing a multi-faceted approach that includes education, raising funds for centre programs, and making a difference through reform.'Taken from the About Us page of the Rehtaeh Parsons Society website.

I first saw a notice about the launch, scheduled for Saturday, November 29th, on the Angel Rehtaeh Facebook page.

I knew immediately I wanted to go.

I wasn't sure exactly what was going to be happening when I got there, or how I could, or would be expected to contribute, but I knew I wanted to go.

And I wanted the boys to go.

I mentioned it to them at different times, and both said, yes, they would go and see what it was all about.

The day of the event, I overheard the younger boy ask the older one, 'Are you going to this thing with mom today?'

I also heard the reluctance in the older boy's voice when he replied, 'Yeah.'

I stopped what I was doing. Blush brush mid-stroke.

Yes, I felt the event was important, and really wanted them to be there, to hear what the speakers had to say, and to show that we supported this initiative.

But ... I didn't want to make them feel like I was forcing them to go, either. 

So I had a talk with them, and found out that even though they did want to go with me, they didn't want to end up being the only teenage boys there.

Again, although I wasn't sure what to expect, I did expect that there would be people of all ages in attendance, but still wasn't going to force them into a situation where they felt uncomfortable.

I told them it was their choice, but I was going either way.

And I did.  On my own.

When I was about five minutes away, I started having doubts.

Should I go?  Should I not go?  

I wasn't related to these people, or a family friend, or tied to their daughter's case in any way, should I be there?  

What was going to be taking place?  

I wouldn't know anybody there.

Should I go? Should I not go?

And then, it came on the radio.

Piano Man.

You regulars in the Korner will remember, that Piano Man was the song the boys and I played on our road trip to Scatter CJ and Remember Rehtaeh at Peggy's Cove last summer.

I always think of it as CJ's song.

And usually when I think of CJ, I think of Rehtaeh.

And I also like to think that those two kids found each other, up there, and are friends now.

So ... I took it as a sign, and kept going.

And I'm glad I did.

I arrived just before they started, grabbed a seat at the front, and scanned the crowd.

I was glad to see a good mixture of men and women.

But then I noticed something, and my boy's words came back to me, 'I don't want to be the only teenage boy there, and be stared at.'

Looking through the crowd, I realized he would have been right.

I didn't see any young people (except two of the entertainers), much less teenage boys.

Little people, the really young ones, yes, they were running around in the other room.

Rehtaeh's sisters, and some of their friends, yes.

But I guess I expected to see teenagers.  Lots and lots of teenagers.

And there weren't.  Any.

That made me sad.

Yes, adults have to take the lead in how our society is going to address the issues that face our youth, such as sexting and cyber-bullying, but the youth have a part in this too.

A big part.

They are the ones who desperately need to hear these messages.

The fact that my teenage boys weren't really comfortable going to this launch, although they support it, is part of the problem.

It should be accepted and EXPECTED that teenage boys would be there, along with their sisters and neighbours and friends.

But it doesn't seem to be.

Not yet.

And that's one of the many things that has to change.

The event was kicked off with a great performance by the All Nations Drummers and consisted of information, entertainment, and the opportunity for those in attendance to share ideas.

Among the speakers were her parents, who explained their vision for the society, and shared memories of their daughter.

There was also a very moving tribute to Rehtaeh, given by Halifax's Poet Laureate, spoken word activist, El Jones.

Say It. "Rehtaeh"

Rebecca Crewe and Jason Hatfield performed a couple of songs that Rebecca had written for Rehtaeh.

I have since discovered that these two talented kids have put together a very good 'Anti Bullying' video, which you can see below. 

Watch it. 

Both songs featured in this video were performed by Rebecca and Jason the day of the launch.

And there was one other young man there among the adults.

He goes by the name A-God, and he performed the song he had written and dedicated to Rehtaeh, Stay Another Day Rehtaeh Parsons.

Those in attendance also received a copy of the new comic Bullies in a Strange Land, a Marvel comic (Custom Edition) put out by Greenzone Movement Inc., as part of a contest, which features Rehtaeh on the last page.


I picked up three.  One for myself, and each of the boys.

I went to this event not knowing what to expect, and I was informed, educated and entertained and left with a renewed sense of wanting to be a part of our much needed social change.

Their vision is simple, really.  "To empower communities to ensure our youth are respectful, responsible, and safe."

That's something I can get behind. 

So, I signed up to be a volunteer.

I have to go through an application process to be accepted, but I took that first step. I signed the piece of paper that said, 'Volunteer'.

I have a voice.

I can make a change.

And so can you.

Contact them.

See how you can become involved.

Add your voice.

Be the change.


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