Homecoming

I have two exams tomorrow which means, naturally, that a great deal of today will be spent procrastinating–and what better way to procrastinate than with facebook. Browsing the status updates I came across a post on Nicky’s wall, linking to a story that ran in yesterday’s Daily Mail–a British newspaper for those of you not in the know. The story was about a young lesbian couple–Rebeca Arellano and Haileigh Adams, seniors at Patrick High School in San Diego–who were crowned as Homecoming King and Queen over the weekend. Rebeca was crowned Homecoming King at Friday’s pep rally, and Haileigh crowned Homecoming Queen as Saturday’s dance.

To say that this makes my heart glow is an understatement–in fact, as my friend and Writing Center colleague Ashley will attest to, it actually made me cry. So many of the stories that we hear are so desperately tragic that to hear such positive news is wonderful–and proof that although we still have SUCH a long way to go, we’re making tiny, tiny baby steps. These girls were chosen from their peers–what more affirmation do we need that at least in some parts of the world (and I know, it’s not happening in enough parts of the world, not by a long chalk) being LGBT is accepted–not simply tolerated–and that love among two people, whoever they happen to be and however they identify themselves, is celebrated.

There’s more of the story here, on the Daily Mail’s website, and it’s worth looking at for the lovely photographs and the video clip of Rebeca speaking about the weekend’s events.

Among other things, this story is a reminder to me that the Diversity Project is as much about celebrating life as it is about remembering the lives that have been lost. And so, there WILL be a square in the blanket in celebration of Rebeca and Haileigh (I’m thinking it has to have embroidered crowns on it…) and their story will be told alongside everyone else’s–their relationship, their love, and the hope that their story brings will be shared with other people who need to hear the positive stories and the changes that are happening, albeit slowly.

So, before I head back to studying for these flippin’ exams, I’d like to raise a metaphorical glass to Rebeca and Haileigh, and offer my congratulations and love to them both. Cheers, girls.

GREAT Bagels!

Several people have mentioned to me recently that they’d love to come to a Knit-In but for one reason or another can’t get to the evening events. With that in mind, I’ve been pondering over the last couple of weeks about the possibility of a Sunday brunch event, but hit upon a stumbling block regarding potential venues. We need somewhere that’s willing to let a bunch of knitters and crocheters eat a little food, drink a little coffee (or tea), talk a lot, knit a lot, and hang out for a couple of hours without causing problems for other diners. Last week, the lovely Jenna made the suggestion of having a Knit-In at Great Bagel, and I charged her with the task of finding out if they’d be willing to let us congregate there.

I’m delighted to say that they’re more than happy to let us come in and clog up their tables with yarn, needles, hooks, and bagels. In fact, their email said:

“What a great project to be a part of – you all can eat, drink, and knit as much as you’d like on whichever day you’d like.  I will say that it does get pretty crazy here on the weekends…we have alot of families on the weekends, as well as a very large volume of customers so a quiet spot this is not, ha!  If that doesn’t bother you folks, you’re more than welcome to come here and create that wonderful blanket!”

So, it looks like a Great Bagel Knit-In is on the cards–all I need to do now is figure out a date and send out notifications–I’ll be finalizing this by the end of the week so bear with me.

Just so that I could be certain that it was a good place to eat (*wink wink*) I popped in with the family on Saturday to sample their fare. I’m happy to report that the bagels are wonderful–and they even do a gluten free bagel which more than made my day. If anyone needs a bagel fix before the Knit-In, they’re located at the corner of Euclid and Woodland, open until 4pm every day.

And, whilst we’re talking about Knit-Ins, don’t forget this weeks event at Coffee Times on Regency Road–let’s get those squares turned out! Looking forward to seeing you all there, do you think we can beat the 20-person turn out that we had at 6 Friends? I challenge you to make this happen!

The Diversity Project Goes Techno!

I had a wonderful meeting this week with Bill from UK’s Center for Visualization and Virtual Environments (Vis. Center) about creating some kind of technological display that can be displayed alongside the physical blanket. I knew they were involved in amazing things, but had no idea just what they were capable of. I went with no real idea of what I wanted, or what they might be able to offer, and came away with my head blown well and truly off.

We talked a great deal about an interactive display that will allow the Project’s audience to access all the dedications and biographies that are such a crucial part of the Project. What we’ve come up with–very tentatively–is a multitouch display; a large touchscreen that allows users to pull up an image of a blanket square and see who knitted it, who donated the yarn, who it’s dedicated to, and read their stories. This kind of display will really take the Project from being a beautiful piece of art and take it to another level, a level that will prompt questions and create thought and discussion, a level that will mean that the lives that have been lost will continue to be remembered. I’m also hoping that alongside the touchscreen will be another interactive system that will allow users to pull a laminated image of a square out of a “fake” blanket, hold it briefly in front of a small camera, and will then have access to similar information.

As well as providing visual information, this technology also has the capacity to return other kinds of data–audio files and video files are the ones that spring immediately to mind. Participants can, if they choose, record their dedication to their loved one, or record a piece of video footage–it just offers so many more possibilities to make this project even more powerful. It would be wonderful if this could also allow us to play music, certain songs that have meaning to the contributors and their loved ones, but I think I’ll need to speak with someone about the copyright issues that might involve.

The next step is to get approval from the Director of the Vis. Center. As you might imagine, none of this technology is cheap and putting together a display of this size is going to involve a considerable financial commitment and the Vis. Center have to be certain that it will be worthwhile for them to be involved in it; Bill now has to put together a complete cost breakdown and submit it for approval. So now, we wait…

Save the Date–More Knit-Ins Planned!

The next Knit-In has been planned and facebook invitations sent out. If you didn’t get a facebook invitation, it’s because for some reason I can only send invitations to people on my personal friends list, and not people who “like” the Diversity Project. I’ll never quite understand facebook’s settings but never mind. Anyway, if you want an invitation, or just to be kept updated with events as they’re planned, either friend me personally on facebook or email me at ukdiversityproject@gmail.com, asking to be added to the mailing list.

Anyway, the next Knit-In will be held at Coffee Times Coffee House, 2571 Regency Road, Lexington. It will be on Wednesday 2nd November (that’s a week from today), starting at 6.30pm and ending at 9.00pm. The usual guidelines apply–I’ll have plenty of yarn but please bring some needles or a crochet hook–and, of course, bring a friend! Let’s make this one as successful as last week’s 6 Friends Knit-In!

A couple of people have mentioned to me that it’s hard for them to make an evening event so I’m thinking of hosting a Sunday brunch Knit-In. What I need, though, are your suggestions for good venues, somewhere we can get something yummy to eat but where it won’t matter if not everyone is eating and where the proprietors won’t mind us sitting and knitting for a couple of hours over our eggs and coffee. Any ideas?

In the meantime, though, Joseph Beth Booksellers are hosting a PFlag event on 12th/13th November where 20% of all sales will go to Lexington PFlag. I’m thinking of getting a merry gang of fiber fiddlers to head along and do a spot of knitting at Joseph Beths, and wondered who might be interested in joining me on either the Saturday or the Sunday. Perhaps I should also think about making some kind of sign to display as well… Do let me know, though, if you might be interested in coming along

And on that note, it’s time for me to say goodnight. Don’t forget to put the next Knit-In date in your diary!

6 Friends…with PUPPIES!

The Knit-In at 6 Friends Cafe was HUGE success; around 20 supporters turned up, picked up needles and crochet hooks, and got to work making beautiful squares for the Project. To say that I was delighted is a huge understatement. And, halfway through the night, a friend of 6 Friends arrived with a box of two-week old English Bulldog puppies so we all got to take a break from our knitting and snuggle with the puppies. Look at this little cutie with his crochet hook…

I’m delighted that so many people came, not just to support the Project, but also to support 6 Friends Cafe. Hopefully we weren’t too much of a disruption for the other diners. And as a result of the Knit-In’s success, I’m meeting with Dee (the owner of 6 Friends) this week to talk about the possibility of holding a live music event at the Cafe to raise funds directly for the Diversity Project Scholarship. This is a very exciting possibility, and I really hope we can pull it off. Watch this space for more details.

It was particularly poignant that the Project got together on Wednesday night–some of you may have seen the news reports about the tragic death of Canada teen, Jamie Hubley. Jamie, a gay teen, sadly took his own life after struggling with bullying and acceptance in his small community. There’s a lot of coverage of Jamie’s story, but here’s a link to the Huffington Post article. Rebecca W, who has created beautiful squares for Lexington students Josh, Jessie, and Hannah, brought with her a square that she had already made in memory of Jamie. In his last blog post, Jamie said that he wanted to be remembered as a unicorn. Rebecca made that come true. Here’s Jamie’s square…

It’s another heartbreaking reminder of exactly why this Project is so important.

 

A Face For Radio…

I get to campus around 7.45 most mornings, usually only half-awake and in need of a gentle start to the day. Tuesday mornings are my favourite though; I work in the Writing Center on Tuesdays and don’t start until 10.00am which means only one thing: Starbucks Chai latte. Yes, I admit, I’m a fan of the Evil Coffee Empire. Chai latte is my vice; I could drink gallons of the stuff but instead I limit myself to a grande non-fat on Tuesday mornings whilst I get some class reading done before my Writing Center shift starts. And, of course, that’s exactly where I found myself this morning when my cellphone rang.

I’d been reading “A Christmas Carol”, as folks do in October. Actually, I’m reading it for an English class, but it’s always such a jolly romp of a story; the ending never fails to make me cry (even in public) and it’s always a pleasure to have an excuse to pick it up again. I’d just discreetly wiped away the tears and was moving on to “Cranford” when my annoying ringtone burst through Starbucks morning jazz. I must have sounded like an idiot when I answered it and couldn’t tell who it was, but after several requests for them to repeat themselves I managed to ascertain that it was someone from a television network who had a free slot on their lunchtime show and wanted to feature the Diversity Project.

After I finished internally squealing, I realized that I had a slight problem. I was scheduled to work until 3.30pm and they wanted me at the studio by noon. Thankfully, I have the most supportive and wonderful boss at the Writing Center and after a quick conversation with Ashley, an email to Judy, and a little wiggling of the schedule I was freed up to go, Cue a mad 11am gallop (actually, it was more like a hectic walk) to pick up the car from the other end of town, followed by a nerve-wracking drive across Lexington to the studio. The drive shouldn’t have been nerve-wracking, and to anyone else it probably wouldn’t have been but the car was low on petrol (that cute little orange light flashed at me all the way there) and I have a track record of getting hopelessly lost every time I try to go somewhere new. The universe was smiling today, though, as I arrived safely at ABC 36’s studio with ten minutes to spare.

I was ushered into the studio where Kristi Runyon was busy delivering the lunchtime news and Geoff Cornish was working on the weather report, and was more than excited to see the interview couch all set up and ready to go.

Yes, I am the sort of geek that takes a picture of this kind of thing. See the camera? And do you see what’s on the screen behind the couch? It’s our yarn picture! And there were screens and autocues everywhere I looked. The cameraman got me set up with a microphone and by 12.20pm we were ready to go.

Kristi, I have to say, was absolutely lovely–and really pretty, she did a great job of putting me at my ease and making it sound like I knew what I was talking about. In reality, though, I was nervous as heck and found myself babbling a great deal. Typically, I was just starting to get into my stride when my three and a half minutes of fame was up and it was all over. Check out the video here, and see what you think.

This wasn’t my only television appearance this week, though. Last week, Emily from UK’s Student News Network interviewed me for their broadcast which was aired on Monday evening on Channel 16. You can view that interview here, my part starts at 2 minutes and 56 seconds. Huge kudos to Emily and the rest of the journalism majors responsible for this broadcast–they did a very professional job.

So, how do we top this? Ellen…?

About Last Night…

The first Knit-In for the Diversity Project was a great success and thanks so much to everyone who made the effort to attend. It was lovely to see new faces–some I’ve already got to know “virtually” through the facebook page but some were completely new to me. I’m grateful to everyone that came, brought yarn, ate cookies, and knitted. We even had three completely novice knitters–Jenna, Brandi, and Mary–all of whom picked up needles and yarn for the very first time and all of whom were knitting by the end of the night. That’s real effort, ladies, and thank you. Thanks too, to Bea and Tonya for helping out with the knitting lessons. And to the other ladies–Dani, Melissa, Margie–thanks for adding to the fun and I can’t wait to get your finished squares.

We also had press coverage–the Kentucky Kernel sent both a reporter and a photographer to cover the event. The article itself hasn’t been run in their print edition but it is available online. Click here to read it.

WRFL, who have been massively supportive of the Diversity Project, also sent a reporter. DeBraun was busy taking soundbites for his upcoming “Campus Voices” show, which I’ll also be part of. Campus Voices goes out live from the WRFL studio on Wednesday 12th October at 5.30pm. Listen in, it should be a great show.

So, after the excitment of last night it’s on to the next thing and I got home last night to discover that two other local news sources want to run stories about the Project. I’ve been contacted by the UK Student News Network who want to conduct an interview with me and a contributor this coming Monday evening. The UK Student News Network is run by broadcast journalism majors which leads me to believe that it’s a television thing. Scary, huh? I need someone who is participating in the project to be interviewed with me so just let me know if you’d like to come–I’ll buy you coffee!

And it seems that the Diversity project is also on the radar of the PR department here at UK. They’ve been talking to the editor of the Chevy Chaser and Southsider who is also keen to run a story about the Project. Hopefully we can get a meeting set up soon and spread the word to more people.

Finally, a date for your diaries. The next Diversity Project Knit-In has been booked. It will be on Wednesday 19th October at the 6 Friends Cafe on Kentucky Avenue, Lexington, between 5.30pm and 8.00pm. This is a great opportunity not only to work on the Project but also to support a great local business. If you haven’t been before, 6 Friends serves wonderful crepes and paninis, and their gelato is simply amazing. Kentucky Avenue is in the Woodland Park Triangle area and 6 Friends is directly opposite Woodland Park itself. Mark this is your diaries–it’s going to be fun!