SAFE SPACE, by Jennifer B

~Safe Space, by Jennifer B
As an art educator teaching grades 7-12 in a working class school district, bullying has always been an issue I take seriously inside and outside of the classroom. I am particularly sensitive to the LGBT community and this ‘Safe Space’ painting is created to honor 18 children ages 18 and under who have either been victims of hate crimes or bullycide. From right to left, front to back you have the following students:


• Jaheem Hererra- Tormented by peers, Hererra hanged himself with a fabric belt on April 16, 2009. He was 11 years old.
• Asher Brown- Bullied, tripped down stairs, taunted, on September, 23, 2010 Brown shot himself in the head. He was 13 years old.
• Carl Joseph Walker Hoover- Hanged himself on April 9, 2009 in response to gay bullying eventhough he never identified as a homosexual. He was 11 years old.
• Lawrence King- on February 12, 2008, a homophobic peer shot King in the head at school. King was 15 years old.
• Seth Walsh- on September 9, 2010 Walsh hanged himself from a tree to end the gay bullying. He survived ten days on life support before passing. Walsh was 13 years old.
• Sakia Gunn- May 11, 2003, Gunn was shot in Newark, NJ as part of a hate crime. Gunn died at age 15.
• Lance Lundsten- 18 years old, committed suicide on January 16, 2011.
• Nicholas Kelo Jr.- on February 23, 2011 Kelo shot himself because he could not handle the bullying. Brilliant and a black belt Kelo could not overcome the pain of his peers. He was 13 years old.
• Billy Lucas- after being called a fag, Lucas hanged himself in a barn on September 9, 2010. He was 15 years old.
• Gwen Araujo- On October 3, 2002 at a party several men assaulted and brutally strangled and beat Araujo to death in a hate crime. This was in response to her being a preoperative transgender woman. Araujo was 17 years old. 


• Justin Aaberg- July 3, 2010 Aaberg hung himself in response to bullying. He came out at age 13 and was tormented to suicide. Aaberg was 15 years old.
• Fred Martinez- Martinez is considered a nadleehi, which in the Native American culture represents a male-bodied person with a feminine nature. This is considered a special gift in the Navajo culture. In America, Martinez was viewed as just transgendered and at age 16 became one of the youngest victims
of a hate-crime. Martinez was murdered on June 6, 2001 in Colorodo.
• Ryan Halligan- A victim of cyber-bullying and classroom bullying Halligan committed suicide October 7, 2003. Among the slurs targeted toward Halligan were gay taunts even though he did not identify as gay. He was 13 years old.
• Bill Clayton – Bill was openly bi-sexual. In April of 1995, he was assaulted in a hate crime here in Olympia, Washington. On May 8, 1995 Bill committed suicide, despite loving support from his family, friends and many wonderful people in our community. Bill was 17 years old.
• Scotty Joe Weaver- was an 18-year-old murder victim from Bay Minette,
Alabama, whose burned and partially decomposed body was discovered on July 22, 2004, a few miles from the mobile home in which he lived. He had been beaten, strangled and stabbed numerous times, partially decapitated, and his body doused in gasoline and set on fire.
• Cody Barker- In Shiocton, Wisconsin, Barker, a 17-year-old openly gay teen, took his life on September 13, 2010 in response to extreme bullying. He had recently started a Gay-Straight Alliance at school.
• Jacob Lawrence Orosco- Orosco grew up in Utah and struggled with the Mormon culture. He started a Gay-Straight Alliance but was bullied extensively. On September 3, 1997 he committed suicide. Orosco was 17 years old.
• Tyler Clementi- On September 22, 2010, Clementi jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge. This occurred after his sexual encounter with a man in his dorm room was video streamed over the Internet without Clementi’s knowledge, by his roommate. He was 18 years old.


In addition to the students, this painting features other layered metaphors.

• In the courtyard you will find an illustration of a fence and red cardinal representing the landmark Matthew Shepherd hate crime as remembered through the play and film The Laramie Project.

• By the door you will find a Keith Haring Poster. Haring was an artist and social activist who died from AIDS at the age of 31.

• On the chalkboard the Robert Indiana Love sculpture poster as well as Harvey Milk poster plaster the edges. Robert Indiana is an openly gay artist. Milk was as an American politician who became the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California, when he won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. A homophobic colleague Dan White assassinated him on November 27, 1978. Milk became and advocate and icon for the LGBT community. The poster features his quote, “Hope will never be silent.”


• The center of the board features a quote by famous gay author Langston Hughes. This quote ties in the theme of fear, courage, survival and flight.

• Other subtle posters include the human rights campaign sticker and the Trevor project poster on the lockers as well as the GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network) Safe Space poster.

This is just a sampling of how adolescents have been affected by homophobia. Hopefully this piece can help bring awareness to this epidemic and begin to create a safe space for all students.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s