The Relational Center at the No H8 Open Shoot January 21, 2012

The Relational Center recently had the opportunity to participate in a No H8 Open Shoot in Los Angeles. Meg Batterson, a TRC Resident (a graduate of TRC’s training program who continues to be involved in training), attended a No H8 shoot in NYC and told the organizers about TRC. As a result, No H8 graciously offered TRC a chance to participate in the LA event. Jayme Davis, TRC’s Outreach Coordinator, and Jessica Weissbuch, a TRC Resident, coordinated the event with several TRC counselors including Laura Laurent-Varava, Keri Sills, Karen Lewis, Brian Wry, Matt Marr and Brittany Adams. They were joined by some LGBTQ youth from a recent Community Action Network facilitated by Jessica Weissbuch, TRC Board Member, Vanessa Butnick, TRC Volunteer, Stephanie Michele, of Socialbling.com and Clark Fairfield who volunteered his professional videography services for the event. The participants took turns canvassing the crowds, filming and conducting interviews as well as manning the TRC table.

Below is a brief interview with Jayme Davis in which she shares her experience of the event.

Q: What was the goal or purpose of our participation?

A: “We had several goals. We believe that healthy communities are inclusive communities, and we were delighted to collaborate with No H8 because we are committed to forming partnerships with like-minded social movements and community organizations (e.g., We also partner with Lifeworks at the LA Gay and Lesbian Center where we provide LGBTQ youth counseling, community action and family support). About 1/3 of our community and much of our community leadership identifies as LGBTQ, and I would like to think that most everyone in our community considers themselves an ally. Many of us actively campaigned against Prop 8 and many of our counselors resigned from CAMFT when they failed to take a stand against it.”
“Many of the people who were inspired to participate in the shoot share similar values with TRC, and we wanted to support them e.g., offering moral support, handing out candy and buttons, thanking them for coming out and supporting No H8, and most importantly, listening to their stories. We wanted to document the event, and give the participants an opportunity to tell us about why the No H8 campaign is important to them, and we wanted to hear their thoughts on the importance of supportive communities. To this end, our volunteers were equipped with flip video cameras, and we shot a lot of footage. Clark Fairfield donated his time and equipment to this project as well, and we captured dozens and dozens of incredibly moving stories from the No H8 participants.”
“Another goal was to increase our visibility in the community and to expand our community. The event was an excellent networking experience, and we now have about 200 more “Friends of TRC” on our mailing list than we had before the event.”

Q: What did you take away from this experience?

A: “One thing I took away from this event was validation that the work TRC does is incredibly important and meaningful. One of our tag lines at TRC is, “Isolation hurts; We help.” The harmful effects of marginalization and alienation was a key theme in many of the participants’ narratives as was the theme of the restorative capacity of community, and these stories just left me with a renewed sense of how important the relational skills we promote and the communities we support and build are.”
“I was surprised about how willing and enthusiastic everyone was to hear about us and to tell us their stories. Several of the stories brought me to tears. It was moving, and it made me feel so grateful for the opportunity to witness their stories and appreciative for the length people go to support one another. One woman, an ally, came to the event because her daughter had been bullied at school, and she wanted to show her solidarity to the LGBTQ community. We heard so many stories from older members of the community who wanted to offer encouragement to younger members. We heard from families with two dads, families with two moms, and families pieced together by choice. We heard from quite a few gay student alliances, and I was particularly touched by a group of students from Whittier and another group from a local environmental science & technology magnate school who took their photos together and were taken to the event by a supportive teacher. One thing that struck me about the event was the celebratory and cheerful atmosphere. People really seemed to be celebrating one another in, rather than despite of their differences, and it struck me as an event that was more pro-compassion and pro-inclusion than it was anti-hate.”

Q: Did anything about the event or your experience surprise you?

A: “The rain! Thank goodness we were able to snag a tent at the last minute. The Grilled Cheese truck was also a lovely surprise, and the brie and granny smith apple sandwiches helped us cope with drizzle until the sun came out around noon. I was also pleasantly surprised that so many people wanted to sign up to become “Friends of TRC.” I was hoping that we might get a couple dozen signatures, and I had no idea that we would leave with close to 200. It was also really validating to see that there is so much community interest in so many of TRC’s projects. People wanted to know more about our Institute for Public Dialogue, volunteer opportunities, our Organizational Consulting arm, groups and counseling, building community action networks, etc.”