August 10th, 2007 08:08 EST
Gay American Heroes Foundation
A Who`s Who " of gay and straight culture have come together to create a national memorial to honor LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people who have been murdered because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Led by Scott Hall, Frank Kameny, US. Representative Barney Frank and Chip Arndt, the idea for Gay American Heroes was born on March 13, 2007, when Founder and President Scott Hall learned about the brutal murder of Ryan Keith Skipper. Ryan was a 25 year-old Floridian who lived in Polk County, not far from Hall. Ryan was viciously stabbed more than 20 times and was left to die; for one reason --- Ryan Keith Skipper was gay.
Hall had twice been the victim of hate crimes and was quickly spurred into action. Within days he contacted longtime friend Frank Kameny, pioneering gay rights activist, who immediately recognized the importance of Hall`s project. James T. Sears, noted writer and historian, also voiced his early strong support of the project. The group then assembled a team to create the Gay American Heroes Foundation, a not-for-profit organization.
With Founding Board Members Chip Arndt, Jack Rutland and William J. Iannarelli leading the way, Gay American Heroes` mission was established: 1) to honor and remember LGBT people who have been murdered because of there sexual orientation and/or gender identity; 2) to engage and inform the public about hate crimes against LGBT persons; and 3) to inspire compassion and greater appreciation for, and acceptance of, diversity.
Hall traveled to New York City where he met with Cyndi Lauper to discuss the project. Ms. Lauper immediately offered to help in any way that she could. Hall also met with Grey`s Anatomy " T. R. Knight, who expressed his heartfelt support for the project.
The first phase of the Foundation`s plan is to assemble a traveling memorial and exhibition constructed of six individual rainbow-colored, multi-dimensional panels bearing the photos, names, ages and occupations of LGBT hate crime victims. The eight-foot tall memorial will stretch more than 100 feet. Expected completion date for the exhibit is December 2007.
Once completed, Gay American Heroes volunteers will transport the display throughout the country to college campuses, LGBT events and to communities where anti-gay murders have occurred. An informational welcome tent will include guest speakers and educational materials. At each venue, the volunteers will enlist local community leaders to present informative programs.
"We want to reach out to communities as soon as possible following a deadly anti-gay hate crime," adds Hall. "We want to support the family and friends of the victim, as well as to work with local officials, law enforcement and service organizations to provide counseling and outreach."
In addition to U.S. Representative Barney Frank, Gay American Heroes` Honorary Board members include Elke Kennedy, whose son Sean William Kennedy was murdered on May 16, 2007 and U.S. Marine Staff Sergeant Eric Alva, the first American wounded in the war in Iraq. (Complete list below)
Several local and national organizations have already declared their support for the Foundation, including Equality Florida, Freedom Democrats of Miami-Dade, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Pridelines Youth Services, Safe Schools South Florida, Stonewall Library & Archives, The Trevor Project and Unity Coalition of Miami-Dade.
The ultimate goal of Gay American Heroes Foundation is to establish a permanent memorial in Washington, DC.
Media Contact: Sharon Kersten, Kersten Communications
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