My town of Anoka, Minnesota is the Halloween Capital of the World. Each year we host a huge Halloween Parade attended by thousands of people from all over the area. The parade and the Halloween Festival were founded with the goals of showcasing youth and community.
This year, an organization called “Justin’s Gift” that supports and affirms LGBT youth, have been told they cannot march in the parade. I am starting this petition to urge the Anoka Halloween Parade Committee to change their minds and allow the youth of Justin’s Gift to walk in the community's annual Halloween Parade on Saturday, October 27th.
Anoka is also known for something more somber -- we are at the heart of the communities that suffered a rash of LGBT youth suicides that drew national attention. One of the young men who took his own life was named Justin Aaberg. Because Justin was gay, he was continually bullied, and once even sexually assaulted while attending Anoka High School. After his tragic death, his mother, Tammy, started an organization called “Justin’s Gift” that provides empowering programs and events for LGBT youth and their ally friends.
As a mom and also a paraprofessional who works with special needs youth in the Anoka-Hennepin Schools, I know just how much we need a positive and empowering message for our community’s youth.
The youth of the organization chose the theme “Favorite Fairy Tale Characters” and submitted their application to march in the parade on time and were still denied. The guidelines only state that there is a max per group and an application deadline – Justin’s Gift easily met both these guidelines. The only reason the committee will give is that there were “too many marchers.” But nowhere on the application form or website does it state that there is a limit to the number of walkers in the parade. The committee refuses to elaborate on why Justin’s Gift was denied.
This may all seem trivial to an outsider, but it means a lot to these kids to be able to walk as a group and celebrate who they are. It means even more that they are part of a positive organization that is working to make every kid feel safe and loved for who they are.
Participating in this parade is a way to help this community start to heal. Please join me to ask the Anoka Halloween Parade Committee to send a better message to LGBT youth and everyone outside of Anoka.
Let Justin’s Gift march!