By Tana Michaels
BAY CITY –
A murdered California boy was remembered during a vigil at the Friendship Shell in Bay City last Thursday. Perceptions, a Bay City, Saginaw and Midland area LGBT group, along with Bay City Central High School’s Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) co-sponsored the event in remembrance of Lawrence King, the 15-year-old Oxnard, Calif. middle school student, who was shot in the head Feb. 12. Lawrence died the next day when he was removed from life support.
“Regardless of whether or not we knew him, we have to do something in the wake of his death to end bullying and discrimination within schools,” said Kaitlyn Skrzypczak of Central’s GSA.
King, an eighth grader, began to accessorize his school uniform with jewelry, make-up and high-heeled boots. He identified himself as gay and was often teased by other students. It’s been alleged that Brandon McInerney, the 14-year-old boy who was charged in the shooting, did so because King told him the previous day that he had a crush on him and asked him to be his Valentine.
Skrzpczak and fellow GSA member, Glenn Madigan are also students on the Michigan Campaign Advocacy Team through the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). They learned of King’s murder while on a trip to Washington, D.C. for a Safe Schools Advocacy Summit. While there, they discussed the shooting and went to a GLSEN sponsored vigil attended by about 150 people who gathered in Dupont Circle.
“Both of us were really inspired by the vigil and wanted to bring it back home, so we decided to hold a vigil in Bay City through our Gay-Straight Alliance,” said Skrzypczak. “We wanted people to realize what had happened because most of the students had no idea this had ever occurred,” she continued.
“We were both deeply affected by Lawrence’s murder because – though we’ve never met him – we realize this tragedy is something that cannot be shrugged off,” added Madigan.
Both Madigan and Skrzypczak say they don’t necessarily feel unsafe at Central, but they can’t vouch for the other 1,600 students there. “Every day we hear slanderous terms that make us feel uncomfortable in class,” Skrzypczak said.
Speakers Jackie Anderson from Triangle Foundation and Ana Guerriero, director of Central Michigan’s Office of Gay and Lesbian Programs, empathized with the plight of school-aged members of the LGBT community and spoke of the need for more education as a solution to these senseless acts of violence.
About 25 attendees held candles and sang from sheets of lyrics that were passed around, “We are a gentle angry people. We are gay and straight together. We are singing for our lives.”