ronkempmusic

Let's work together against bullying and help bring the teen suicide rate down to zero

Posts Tagged ‘WHOF

Drew Ferraro’s Family Fights Back Against Bullying

leave a comment »


With the grief still raw from his suicide, the family of Drew Ferraro has decided to join the fight to end bullying.  At a memorial service held for their gone-too-soon son, they handed out business cards with Drew’s image on one side, and the numbers for suicide prevention as well as the email address for a couple of websites to stop bullying.  None of this will help bring back Drew, of course, but their aim is to do everything they can to assure that no family ever has to go through the devastation that they’re experiencing.

This is what it’s going to take.  It’s going to take more families getting involved and demanding change.  No child, ever, should be bullied…period.  As an extension, however, no child certainly should ever have to feel like the only way to get away from the bullying is to end his or her life.  That’s why I write these articles.  That’s why so many people are getting involved with such a critically essential struggle:  this has to end now!

We are already painfully aware that the officials, be it school officials, law enforcement, or even some politicians, are more than willing to turn a blind eye to the problem.  Indeed, the statement from the La Cresenta law enforcement was that “their investigation” showed no evidence of bullying.  In fact, he defiantly added “I know there has been a lot of speculation about bullying — it had nothing to do with that.”  Apparently, their investigation was in the wrong places.  It was reported here from the beginning that Drew Ferraro ended his life because of bullying.  Now certainly isn’t the time or place for “I told you so”, and that’s not my intent; however, if friends and family say that it was caused by bullying, it just doesn’t matter what the school officials or law enforcers say.  They’re simply trying to cover their own asses.  Those closest to the victims, those left to pick up the pieces, will certainly know better than the “officials” what happened to their loved one.

It’s up to us, the concerned citizens of the world community, to make the changes that are necessary to bring this woeful chapter to an abrupt end.  A lot is being done.  And, progress is being made.  Just not fast enough.  Certainly not fast enough to save Drew Ferraro’s life or any other of the dozens of teens who have taken their own lives because of bullying just this year alone.  Dozens!!  Today is only the 49th day of the year!!!  Can you see the urgency?

These are links and numbers everyone should have handy at all times:
WHOF’s Suicide Support page
STOP Teenage Suicide
Stop Bullying website
1-800-273-TALK(8255)

No child, gay or straight, black or white, fat, skinny, Martian, or otherwise should ever, EVER, be put in a position where they feel that ending their life is the only hope they have for the bullying to end.  At the end of the program handed out by Drew’s family at his memorial get-together were the words “Zero Tolerance against Bullying”.  Where have you read that before?

Six Million People Can’t be Wrong

with one comment


I speak often of Wipeout Homophobia on Facebook.  There’s a reason for that.  In my humble opinion, they are singlehandedly changing the world.  That’s a very strong statement.  It puts a lot of responsibility on the great people who make their platform work.  And, it puts a ton of weight on the shoulders of Kel, the creator of this phenomena.

Apparently, there are many people who agree with me.  Besides the fact that their facebook page now has over 315,000 members, and growing by leaps and bounds on a weekly basis, today their webpage added it’s 6 millionth visitor!!!  Six million, three hundred thousand people worldwide agree with me that Wipeout Homophobia on Facebook, it the community of change.  The beauty of that is they are not wilting in the least from the pressure of such gaudy numbers.  In fact, they crave more and celebrate each milestone.  Why?  Obvious answer:  the higher the numbers, the more people who are being reached, the better the chances of helping people who really need help the most.

They are the trailblazers.  Why?  What’s their lure?  What is it that’s constantly attracting tens of thousands of people to their page and website on a weekly basis?  Simple answer:  They reach out to everyone.  Gays and straights alike, from around the world!, interact with their twin pages daily, contributing their own stories, sharing photos, or just offering support.  It’s become the premiere “go to” spot on facebook.  That carries a lot of weight considering facebook boasts over 800,000,000 users.

Kevin “Kel” O’Neil, WHOF’s creator started this on a lark, actually.  In his own words:

” WHOF, all started on the 9th May 2010. During a search for a gay group I found two hate pages. They only had a few members , but all I could think was what if one of my family found this page and read the hate speech.

I decided to”report” both pages. Hate speech is illegal in most of the free world and is also against Facebook’s own terms of use.

I sent links to the pages to some friends so they too could report them, they replied with links to others I thought that rather than 30 of us sending each other messages, I would collate the links on one Facebook page. An hour later there were hundreds of members and by the end of the day a thousand had joined, today there are over 310,000 members” Says Kevin,from Durham in the North east of England, who later created the website to accompany the facebook page in September of 2010.

That’s called filling a void.  It was the right idea at the right time, and people from every outpost on the globe have responded.

Of course, not everyone in the world agrees with such a positive movement.  Change frightens people.  And, Kel gets the hate mail to prove it!  Always one step ahead, he handles each piece of hate mail with the kind of wit and humor, yet very much to the point, that only he can do.

Another invaluable piece of the WHOF puzzle is the staff he has surrounded himself with.  The Wipeout Homophobia on Facebook administration consists of such leaders as Lyndsay Winegarden (creator of STOP Teen Suicide) and Matt Desmond (creator and owner of AddictingInfo.com)  What that means is that there’s always someone knowledgeable and skilled manning the page in the event there’s an emergency.  That’s a crucial component.

I think, for me, what impresses me the most is some of the letters of thanks they receive from people who were in a real bad place in their lives, or maybe a friend or family member was and, thanks to WHOF, they were able to make it through.

Ashlee Tai 07:53 AM on January 24, 2012
Dear Kel,
I wanted to share a story with you and other admin members to let you know how much of a positive impact you’ve made in my life and in the lives of many people that I know.  I am a proud bi-sexual and have always been open and honest about it with family, friends and strangers. It has more often than not made me a target for homophobic taunts and physical attacks. But I believe that there is nothing in the world that will ever dictate how I should live and who I should love.
One of my dearest friends Lucas just recently accepted himself for who he is. A gay man. I couldn’t have been more proud when he told me.  However he was extremely scared because like myself he was raised in a devout Catholic family and was always taught that homosexuality was unnatural, perverted and going against the laws of God (However neither one of us actually believe in God). Because of his apprehension towards wanting to tell his family I told him I would be there to provide some much needed support.

It did not go well at all. His mother told him being gay was a disease and he was a threat to the institution of marriage. Then his dad packed his things and told him to get out of his house because as far as he was concerned Lucas was dead to him. Their abuse towards him continued right up until we pulled out of the driveway.
It made me angry that they could exhibit such hatred towards such a beautiful man, their only child.
I organised for him to live with my best friends family who happen to be straight Catholics that have nothing but love and support for the gay community. They have taken in many LGBT friends/acquantances of mine and have given them a home. Food to eat. Clothes on their backs. And compassion in the purest of forms.
And the one thing that I along with my friends family have encouraged them to turn to if we aren’t there and they are feeling down, is your page.
You provide an incredible about of hope for the future. And in all honesty if it weren’t for WHOF I don’t think I’d have many of my LGBT friends still with me. I would like to thank you for saving lives because in my eyes that is what you’ve done and that is what you are doing.
Thank you so much for everything.
Ashlee Tai.

Those stories get me every time.  Each letter of survival validates the strong presence and tremendous work WHOF has on the Internet.

Congratulations, guys, on your 6,000,000th visitor and, more importantly, on a job very well done!

Suicide Prevention Resources

leave a comment »


Since October, I’ve made suicide prevention my “second career”. I’m as passionate about this as I am about my music. That says a lot! Whenever possible, and as often as possible, I like to provide valuable information in case anyone is face-to-face with a life-or-death situation. As we’re seeing over and over, it’s can happen to anyone. And, in some cases, as in Alex Frye, we don’t even see it coming.

The deeper involved I become in this, the more I understand what an outstanding and equally passionate network of people trying to make a difference. It’s truly amazing, and it makes me very proud (even humbled) to be a part of such an enormous effort. It really should’ve come as no surprise when I spent some time perusing the Wipeout Homophobia on Facebook webpage and came across what is probably the most comprehensive compilation of resources I’ve come across so far. I would be doing a disservice if I didn’t pass along that link.

Great minds think alike. I’ve been saying forever that one of the biggest issues with the troubling teen issues, from the bullying to the suicides to other violent acts carried out by troubled teens, is that we as adults fail them when it comes to listening. We hear them. Too often, we aren’t listening. Then, suddenly, it’s too late to listen. We’re left with having to react to whatever their actions may be, however devastating they are. That’s nowhere near good enough. On the WHOF page, the first piece of advise is to “be quiet and listen!” What a concept. I’m convinced that if the family and friends of then-15 year old Andy Williams had only listened to what he was screaming to them, the two boys he killed would still be alive and he wouldn’t be spending the rest of his life in a California prison. Google it. (yeah, that story got under my skin because he was a Marylander who was transplanted to California to get him away from the bullying. It didn’t work.)

We can never have enough resources available to us. As I shared earlier in the week, some of the “resources” that are supposed to be there for you sometimes aren’t. One thing we know for sure: Wipeout Homophobia on Facebook is always there to provide support and resources. Kudos, again, to you Kel and Whof!!!

Written by Ron Kemp

January 12, 2012 at 5:38 am

Wiping Out Homophobia on Facebook

leave a comment »


You know how the Internet works:  one link leads to another link to another link and, before you know it, you’re right there staring at the screen saying “WOW!!!”.  That was the case with me back in early fall of last year.  I ended up on a facebook page that was right in the middle of going viral.  If you’ve never witnessed that, it’s an amazing thing to watch.  When I “joined” the community, by simply clicking the “like” button, there were less that 100,000 members.  By the minute, those numbers were increasing by the dozens.  Dozens…as in plural.  I watched in excited awe as this page just literally blew up into one of the true giants on the social network behemoth.  To become a giant on a network that has over 8 HUNDRED MILLION people on it is an accomplishment of enormous proportions.  What could a single page create such a buzz and generate such a massive, and quite active, audience in such a short time?  They’re in the “business” of changing lives.

Wipeout Homophobia on Facebook had a main goal, when I joined it, of spotting pages on facebook that promoted hatred and intolerance towards the gay community and getting them eliminated from the social network.  Since then, it’s morphed into so much more.  Today, they have gay married couples posting wedding pictures.  Today, they have suicidal gay teens, or their parents, writing in to give their own testimonial of how Wipeout Homophobia on Facebook (WHOF) saved their life.   Oh, and today, they still root out homophobic hatred and intolerance on facebook.

Becoming part of this burgeoning community was an exhilarating experience.  Immediately, it became my de facto homepage on facebook.  I was there at least 10-1 more than I was on my own “home” page.  This was where I was supposed to be.  This was my community.  I’d post comments, read other’s stories of happiness and sadness, and share their links and stories to the friends on my own pages. (call it my second coming out!)

In October, WHOF changed my life forever.  I returned from work to read the headline “We Failed Another Gay Teen”.  See, that’s been my hot-button for most of my adult life:  Gay teen suicide.  So, naturally, when I saw that headline, it grabbed my full attention.    I dug deeper and found Jamie’s videos on youtube.  I sat in stunned disbelief as I watched all 12 of them from beginning to end.  I read his tumblr blog.  And, then I got mad.  I’d written songs about gay teen suicide, but no one really paid much attention to them.  That was supposed to be my way of doing my part to help bring awareness to the problem.  If no one is listening, the message isn’t going anywhere.  Right then and there, I made the decision to get deeper involved.  That’s when this blog was born.  If there were a “family tree” for this blog, WHOF would have to be the root.

Kevin O’Neill, or Kel, is the creator and founder of WHOF, which also has a website: whof.net.  In his own words, “we [also] have a lot of ‘straight’ supporters who learn a lot about us.”  It’s people from all around the world, gay and straight, black and white and red and green, young and old, male and female, coming together to form a loving community of sharing and caring.  And, sometimes, just being.  Kel, and WHOF, changed my life forever.  Now, multiply that by the 277,000+ “members” who are in the community, and you’ll get a better picture of the impact this page has had on people around the world.

There’s a massive army formed to combat homophobia, to educate people on how to stop bullying, and most importantly to prevent gay teen suicides.  WHOF, is right there in the trenches leading the way.  We are all much better off with Kel, and his creation, in the world.

Written by Ron Kemp

January 4, 2012 at 7:49 am