The Illinois Safe Schools Alliance held its third annual Night of Noise fundraisertitled "Onward and Upward"on April 14 at the Haymarket Pub and Brewing.
The eventwhich included a VIP reception, raffle and variety showis a direct response to the Day of Silence and featured singers, dancers, poets, musicians and comedy ensembles performing in support of LGBTQ youth. The event was emceed by La Tonyone of the original members of the Coalition of Education for Sexual Orientation, a precursor to the Illinois Safe School Alliance.
Performers in this year's edition included vocalists Richard Streetman and Jace William, tap dancers Sara Payne and Reggio McLaughlin, poets Bea Cordelia and June, comedy-theater company GayCo and the Piven Theater's Young People's Company, French-horn players Karen Reitan and Elizabeth Irvin, and a drag performance by Venus Caranji.
The evening also included a segment that celebrated LGBTQ superheroes who stood and fought homophobia and transphobia. Those mentioned included James Baldwin, Angie Xtravaganza, Marsha P. Johnson and Ash Whitaker, while table displays featured figures such as Bayard Rustin.
The Day of Silence, the precursor to Night of Noise, is now nationally recognized and has grown from a small event started at the University of Virginia in 1996 by freshman Maria Pulzetti into a tradition that includes 10,000 middle schools, high schools and universities worldwide.
Illinois Safe Schools Board Chairwoman Mary F. Morten said, "This year's event celebrates our LGBTQ superheroes past and present. We are excited to host yet another amazing roster of talent and even more great raffle prizes from some local businesses all while supporting The Alliance's vital work. This evening is so important as we "make noise" to celebrate all youth who are celebrating their authentic selves and living out loud."
Karen Reitanthe executive director of the Public Health Institute of Metropolitan Chicago ( PHIMC )later spoke about the upcoming merger between her organization and the Alliance, and expressed both organizations' excitement about deepening work on behalf of LGBTQ youth throughout the state.
Sponsors for "Onward and Upward" included Navigant, the Morten Group and Megan Carney, with raffle prizes donated by Crosstown Fitness, Early to Bed, Jameson Loves Danger and Milk Handmade.
For more information on The Illinois Safe School Alliance, visit ILSafeSchools.org .
With assistance from Mary Morten