WEST ORANGE, NJ - The Tyler Clementi Foundation received a Pride of Essex County Award at the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning) Pride Month Celebration on Aug. 19 for their work on behalf of LGBTQ and other vulnerable youth. The ceremony took place in the Essex County Hall of Records in Newark.
The Essex County LGBTQ Advisory Board and Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo were on hand to present the awards to Joseph, Jane and James Clementi of the Tyler Clementi Foundation. Tyler was a Rutgers University student who took his own life after being a victim of cyberbullying. His family created the Tyler Clementi Foundation to promote "acceptance of LGBT teens and others marginalized by society, providing education against all forms of bullying including cyber bullying over the internet and promoting research and development into the causes and prevention of teenage suicide discrimination and bullying."
“We are proud to celebrate Essex County Pride Month and raise awareness about the LGBTQ community in Essex and how this segment of the population has contributed to the development of our County," said DiVincenzo.
Speaking of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, he noted, "Jane, Joseph and James have worked hard to provide support, promote understanding and protect human rights. They are exceptional people who are working diligently to raise awareness about bullying and its effects on LGBTQ youth.”
For Jane Clementi, Tyler's mother, the journey from parent to advocate has been an emotional and spiritual one. She ultimately left her evangelical church because they condemned homosexuality and to remain would have made her a "bystander to bullying." She now speaks to parents and organizations about the "need to divorce the concept of 'sin' from homosexuality." She speaks out in support of LGBT rights and the need for families and communities to embrace their LGBT populations.
“Bullying can take all kinds of forms, and it can happen anywhere. These harmful actions can be destructive to the human spirit,” said Jane Clementi.
“New Jersey is making great strides, but there is still much work to be done. Our goal is to not have another situation like Tyler’s ever happen again. We hope to create a society that embraces all its members regardless of gender and identity.”
Tyler's father Joseph Clementi advocates with his wife and encourages communities to foster environments in that value people who struggle with feeling isolated, uncared for or misunderstood. He talks about the concept of turning "Bystanders into Upstanders," to defend the targeted.
Tyler's older brother James, who is also gay, has become an activist, raising awareness of bullying, suicide prevention, and LGBT rights.
“This time of year is very difficult for my family because it’s when families are preparing to go back to school. Four years ago, Tyler was getting ready for his freshman year at Rutgers, ready to branch out and become independent. However, his life and dreams were cut short in just a few weeks,” Clementi said.
“I wish my brother could be here today to see this incredible celebration. The foundation that we created in his memory is an opportunity to get the message out that safe areas must be made for all people. Thank you for validating the work that we have doing,” he added.
For more information on the Tyler Clementi Foundation, go to: http://www.tylerclementi.org.