Sunday, March 25, 2012

and I burned a hole in the state of Michigan

So, as usual, I've fallen behind in a lot of ways, on a lot of blogs, because frankly...several days attacked me at once, and writing took a back seat to just getting through it.

But I wanted to get to a post on World Goth Day events before too much more time passed.

First, I want to point your attention to an excellent entry on the SL Freebie Hunters blog on the topic. That's well worth reading on its own, and Axi Kurmin's clarification of some of the rules is also well worth reading through if you're a merchant (goth or not) and want to apply to either hunt she's helping to organize. (And this post tells you how to apply if you think you will fit the qualifications. There are spaces open still, I believe, for both hunts.)

But I think these posts (and the one on SL Universe, which says the same thing) stand fast on their own. It's a month of gothy goodness, two hunts, several events, most of it officially sanctioned by the World Goth Day group and with at least some, if not all of the proceeds going to charity.

That's what I want to talk about here, though: the charity aspects.

If you go to the World Goth Day page and read through things, it is--and this isn't a bad thing, mind--a celebration in midsummer of the goth lifestyle. For many reasons, summer is traditionally a bad time to be a goth. We stand out more, we're wearing sunscreen (much of which can clash with our makeup, should we wear any), black is not the best color for light and heat--and we're sometimes left with cumbersome accessories to the order of parasols, heavy veils, et cetera (I've been tempted once or twice to invest in a black silk burka, and no, totally not kidding about that).

So why the midsummer gothic celebration? This takes a bit of backstory.

(from the Charity efforts album)

This was Sophie Lancaster. She was an art student in Lancashire, planning to continue on to get a formal degree in English.

(from the Charity efforts album)

At the time of her death, she was dating Robert Maltby, a fellow art student--and fellow goth. These were not people who ran around shooting others or heaping insults on them. By all reports, they were quiet, studious, and intelligent, but they received grief over how they looked. When Sophie died, she was only twenty years old.

Worldwide, anyone who's different is attacked by members of the dominant culture. Blacks, gays, pagans, Asians, lesbians, Jews, First Nation peoples...the list goes on ad nauseum. Hells, in my social group, several of my friends use "dirty hippie" as a common, garden-variety insult, so even people still following in the footsteps of the peace and love generation get grief. It's part of human nature. One of the more annoying parts, to be sure, but there nonetheless.

Still, it takes a special level of monster to kill someone just because they're different. And that happened to Sophie.

(from the Charity efforts album)

On the night--actually, just past midnight--of August 11th, 2007, Sophie and Robert were walking home through the Stubbylee skate park in Bacup, Lancashire, England. Going in through the front gate, they noticed a large group of teenagers, who immediately took a dislike to them and began following them. Still, nothing too overt was said, and I believe they weren't worried about a threat of physical harm (just emotional).

Then the teens attacked. They attacked Robert first, quickly knocking him to the ground and kicking him unconscious. Sophie, thinking only to protect the man she loved, fell to her knees, gathering him up in her arms and protecting his head and chest with her own body.

These monsters, because I can conceive of no better word, continued their attack, kicking Sophie's back, arms and head, and, when she had fallen to the side (Robert still cradled in her arms), they stomped on her head until police arrived.

(from the Charity efforts album)

She died, in hospital, thirteen days later. Robert, whose initial injuries seemed far worse, recovered, though he will be haunted by Sophie's loss for the rest of his days, in addition to sustaining ongoing neurological damage. And why? Why did this happen? Because Sophie and Robert looked different.

These idiots even bragged about it to their friends, later, telling them to go to the park to see the two "moshers" they'd left "nearly dead".

We may never know just how many participated in the attack on Robert and Sophie. Eyewitnesses say it could have been upwards of fifteen, maybe more. What we do know is that of the five directly arrested for the attack, two were sentenced to life imprisonment, and the other three were given sentences of at least four years in duration, if not longer.
"This was a terrible case which has shocked and outraged all who have heard about it. At least wild animals, when they hunt in packs, have a legitimate reason for so doing, to obtain food. You have none and your behaviour on that night degrades humanity itself."
Judge Anthony Russell said that at the trial, and I wholly agree with him. This was abhorrent, shocking, and completely unnecessary.

You can find more information--and how the Sophie Lancaster Foundation works--at their site. Sylvia Lancaster--who also took the last picture I'm showing on this entry--has worked tirelessly to raise awareness of subculture violence, and does all she can, every day, to ensure subculture acceptance. It's not just about the gothic community...but in very many ways, Sophie's one of our poster children for why it's important that we exist, and keep our heads held high.

And this is why World Goth Day exists. The founders behind it were absolutely appalled at the level of violence shown to Sophie and Robert. And they vowed to change the world however they could. A year after Sophie's death, they celebrated the first Goth Day in England. By the next year celebrations were being held beyond England. A year or so past that they went worldwide.

If you're a maker of gothic goods, consider going to the clocktower and grabbing an application for one or both hunts. If you're not a maker of gothic goods, there are several ways to either get involved, or to donate. Consider it.

And remember: anyone who's in any subculture, and goes out unafraid, carries a little of Sophie's spirit with them. And I think she'd like that. I think she'd be honored that so many remember her, and her bravery and sacrifice. The last thing anyone should want is for something like this to happen again--and that's why both charities, and World Goth Day as a celebration, are so important.

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