Photos and story by Janet Schultz
The Western New York community is still shaken over the suicide death of Williamsville North student Jamey Rodemeyer.
One Lewiston-Porter student was moved by what Jamey had posted on YouTube and decided that Jamey's legacy must live on.
Robert Blakelock of Lewiston developed a fundraising campaign for No H8 in Rodemeyer's honor.
"His video was very moving and I wanted to give something back to Jamey and continue his legacy," said 13-year-old Blakelock.
"Some of the responses (on YouTube) were supportive but some were very nasty and not very supportive and I really felt that someone should continue what he did; he didn't deserve what he was getting," continued Blakelock, an eighth grade student at Lewiston-Porter Middle School.
"Jamey was trying to help others kids like himself. He tried telling them they weren't alone."
Blakelock choose the green wristband in remembrance of Jamey because the bands historically represent a movement and that was his idea, to start a movement to remember Jamey and what he represented.
He did his research on the web and designed the wristband to read "No H8, Remember Jamey."
No H8 is a photographic silent protest created by Celebrity Photographer Adam Bouska who featured photos of celebrities sporting duct taped mouths and the No H8 symbol painted or tattooed on their cheeks. The duct tape represents the silence imposed by the passing of California's Proposition 8 banning same sex marriages. The movement grew from celebrities' support to national support.
The funds Blakelock is raising will go to GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network whose mission is to assure that each member of every school community is valued and respected regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. The movement is supported by Ellen DeGeneres.
Blakelock, who began the sale of the wristbands two weeks ago, has sold 266 of the 400 bands he obtained. At $2 each he plans to raise $800 for GLSEN.
Middle School Principal Karen Cuddy-Miller is not only proud of Blakelock's commitment to the cause but commented that his entire process in bringing the project to her was "incredibly impressive."
"He contacted me and Mrs. Marinucci (Lew-Port guidance counselor) by email with the idea," said Cuddy-Miller. "He was very articulate in his written word, he had his plan in mind, he proposed a draft announcement for the school announcements and truly was ready with all the pieces of information and a plan in mind."
"The entire community at Lew-Port has been supportive and stands together on the subject," said Blakelock.
"Everyone supports Jamey and his legacy that we are carrying on," said Blakelock.
"This is an incredibly controversial topic and it wraps into what we are trying to do in this school culture of respect and responsibility for all," said Cuddy-Miller. "I am not surprised. I am impressed with the warmth and reception in which it was received."
"We presented it as the Ellen DeGeneres GLSEN, and I do believe that the hearts are in the right place for many, many people," she continued.
She feels that there is confusion in our culture and how to receive all people if they have different values, life experiences or paths. She believes that if they start to establish strength and support at the middle school years they can create a better culture in the future.
"We don't need to share other peoples beliefs, but we need to respect them," she said.
"I just want people to know we need to carry on Jamey's legacy and make others believe that they are not alone in this world and that there is support for them," said Blakelock.