Community forum at downtown library part of national effort underway to stop bullying, hurtful language
The Erie County Office for the Disabled was joined by more than 15 human service agencies from around Erie County at the Central Library in downtown Buffalo Friday as part of an annual national effort to "Spread the Word to End the Word." The event brought parents, teachers and students together in an effort to raise societal consciousness about the dehumanizing effects of the "r-word" ("retard" or "retarded"), encouraging attendees to sign a pledge to stop using the word, and also called attention to the many forms of physical, verbal and cyber bullying, and the need to eradicate them.
"When we join together to speak out against cruel and harmful language, and we teach our children to do the same, we begin to build a more inclusive and tolerant community," Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz said. "There is no place for bullying or for destructive labels like the 'r-word' in Erie County, and today we pledge to not use hurtful language ourselves and remind others to do the same.
"Words really can hurt, and events like this help underscore the potential damage that bullying can do both to the victim and the perpetrator. I want to thank the Office for the Disabled and their partners for once again leading the way and spotlighting this issue."
Open to families and students from elementary through high school, and from across Erie County, the community forum included the signing of the "Anti-Bullying Pledge" banner by all in attendance. The forum also featured poetry readings by Starlight Poets, and participants played the "I Am ... Game," a thought-provoking exercise meant to look past the labels of names and titles and instead focus on a personal attribute. In addition, Brie Kishel, program and operations manager for the University at Buffalo's Alberti Center for Bullying Prevention, moderated a presentation of short films centered on disability awareness and advocacy, themes that also were explored in the forum's keynote discussion by Batavia Self Advocates.
"Today's event is about spreading the word that people with an intellectual or developmental disability have unique gifts and talents to be shared. The language we use affects people's attitudes, so please think before you speak," said Frank Cammarata, executive director of the Erie County Office for the Disabled.
Sponsors for Community Involvement Day were from the Erie County Office for the Disabled, Self-Advocates of NYS, the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library, the Learning Disabilities Association, Starlight Studios, the University at Buffalo Alberti Center and People Inc.
For more information on the Erie County Office for the Disabled, visit http://www2.erie.gov/ecod/.
To learn more about the "Spread the Word to End the Word" campaign, visit http://www.r-word.org.