From an energetic performance of Lady Gaga’s “Born this Way” and Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful” by Ms. Libunao’s class to handing out “Operation Life Savers” with positive messages attached, Marc Garneau CI brought out its united spirit on 8 April, 2015, as students wandered throughout the day in all shades of pink to celebrate the International Day of Pink.
The Social Justice and Equity Committee (SJEC) and the Gender & Sexuality Alliance (GSA) collaborated together to prepare. The project planning began approximately a month ago under the careful guidance of the club’s staff advisor, Mr. Pearce, who has been involved in organizing social justice events for the school for at least three years.
Posters advertising the MGCI Day of Pink had been put up throughout the school to raise awareness for the event. The list of the day’s activities included the distribution of pink felt triangles and about three hundred lifesavers with anti-homophobic messages, an “Operation Lifesaver” project organized by the SJEC.
The International Day of Pink is celebrated throughout Canada on the second Wednesday of April. It allows youth and adults alike to not only raise awareness about but also take a stand against “homophobia, transmisogyny, and all forms of discrimination and bullying.” For many, this day enables people, regardless of their race, religious or personal beliefs, to form a united front and show that people of all ages can join together and fight against discrimination.
Many students at MGCI were seen wearing pink shirts in an act of solidarity to oppose all forms of bullying and discrimination. “I really believe in diversity and being open-minded towards everyone around you, so I think that Day of Pink is a great way to show your support for that … I think the encouragement and support that the boy received a few years ago continues to motivate us to support diversity as well,” said Dorothy Qian, a Grade 11 student.
The International Day of Pink was originally established by Jer’s Vision, an organization now known as the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity (CCGSD), as a response to an incident that occurred in a high school in Nova Scotia in 2007. Two students, David Shepherd and Travis Price, noticed a Grade 9 student being bullied for wearing a pink shirt. They decided to take a stand for their beliefs by inviting the school to wear pink. This seemingly simple act eventually sparked a nationwide fight against bullying of all forms.
When asked why remembering the incident is vital to the forward movement of the cause against bullying, Selina McCallum, a member of GSA, said, “Only two boys who felt that what was happening was wrong decided to do something about it by getting their friends and peers to wear the colour pink. Now, on that very day, there are kids all over Canada wearing pink as well. It goes to show that you don’t need a majority of people on your side at first to do something you think is right. People will naturally follow you if you are doing the right thing. All it takes is one person to make a difference.”
The CCGSD, which runs the Day of Pink campaign, serves to “stop bullying, discrimination, and homophobia in schools and communities in Canada, and abroad.” Aside from the International Day of Pink, their goals include celebrating diversity through a variety of anti-discrimination programs, workshops, presentations, and training conferences, all initiatives that work towards raising awareness of the challenges that surround the issue of bullying.
“This day is really just a reminder to everyone that bullying and discrimination still happen, and that it takes everyone’s collective effort to create change. It’s a great way to raise awareness because it only takes a simple action ‐ wearing pink ‐ to participate,” said Jackie Ho, the Social Justice Convenor for Student Council.
For others, the day was a fight for something personal. “This matters to me because I have an uncle who is gay. He has told me about all the struggles he has faced when he was younger. I wouldn’t want that to happen to anyone else as it’s not a great feeling to be picked on. It’s important to me because I think that too many young people have lost their lives due to being bullied. It is time for it to stop completely … I think when people know that there are others who are raising awareness about these issues, they will then not be afraid to come out to them about theirs. No one should have to face any struggles alone and in silence. We should all be here for each other,” said McCallum.
Annual recognition of the International Day of Pink conveys the strong message that bullies are only as strong as others allow them to be ‐ take away their power to hurt others, and their reason to bully is also eliminated. Racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, and transphobia are all existent as social barriers, and create a world of negativity, hate, and harassment. Rather than attempting to change others into who you want them to be, simply accept them for who they are.
McCallum said, “Bullying is no joke.”