|Brittany McMillan * Photo By Aaron McQuade|
She vowed that she would get folks to devote one day to international solidarity against bullying of LGBT youth.
Brittany McMillan launched her idea, first on Tumblr and then later on Facebook that not only went viral, but took the world by storm. The first Spirit Day observance took place on October 20, 2010, and by the day of the event nearly 1.6 million Facebook users alone were signed up globally.
McMillan drew her inspiration and the colour for the theme of the observance to heighten awareness of the problem of bullying from the last colour stripe of the Gilbert Baker designed "Rainbow Pride Flag." The name, Spirit Day she explained, comes from the purple stripe of the Rainbow Flag, which Baker defined as 'representing "spirit."'
Today, on the third celebration and anniversary of Spirit Day, McMillan was in New York at the offices of the event's principal sponsor, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. (GLAAD)
Speaking by phone with LGBTQNation, McMillan said that like many of her peers in high school who were victims of bullying, she too had experienced first hand its effects. McMillan said she'd experienced depression and thoughts of suicide. When asked what her inspiration was that made the difference in her life, "that one thing that made her reach out to contribute to prevent anymore needless deaths because of bullying," she immediately credited her teachers.
"That's the important thing, people need to understand that action needs to be taken" she said. "The teachers, they inspired me but they know, they see what goes on- kids struggling, and they make the difference."
McMillan said that her future lies in education as she wants to be a teacher herself.
"I always wanted to be a teacher, wanted to take care of kids," she admitted. "Part of preventing bullying, making kids at least aware, is built on good relationships with morals and values."
|Photo courtesy of GLAAD|
"I share their stories," she said. " I tell people their names, their ages and what happened- you know that made them feel like there was no way out."
When asked to focus on the problem bullying for a moment- McMillan was then asked: "What more do you feel society needs to change the environment that allows bullying to continue? She quickly fired back;
"Learn to go outside of your comfort zone. Make a stand- Do something about bullying right then when they see bullying occur.
It's like when I talk about the stories, when people take the time to really hear these stories, they learn to more carefully consider their actions, and they stand up in support of all young people."
McMillan said that social media has played a huge role in the campaign to target the problem and raise awareness. She also is thankful to all of the major corporation and small companies who switch to purple and lend their support.
"I want to create, well I hope to create that good feeling," she says. Adding that everyone, companies, charities, adults, teachers plays a part in building tolerance.
Not everyone is the same, they all come from different lifestyles, cultures. We need to accept that."
She also thinks that social media plays a big role in spreading kindness as well.
"Tumblr, Facebook, all of them are really an excellent way to get people to hear these stories and then take action."