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|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
||June 26, 2008
Three LGBT Youth Activists Win National Courage Awards from Colin Higgins Foundation
Winners of $10,000 Grants Became Leaders in the Face of Discrimination
San Francisco, June 26, 2008 - This year's winners of The Colin Higgins Youth
Courage Awards have shown remarkable bravery throughout their young lives, facing down the range of problems confronting LGBTQ youth of color in the United States. Devon Bearden, Kyle Rapinan and Perre Shelton are three young people who have transformed their adversity – displacement from their homes, confrontation with the foster care system, violence from family members and peers – into inspiration for their art, activism and advocacy. Named for the acclaimed writer/director of Harold and Maude and Nine to Five, the Colin Higgins Foundation
was established in 1986 to support lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities.The 2008 awardees represent a new generation of peer activists, working to create safe spaces for fellow queer youth while themselves facing the extreme hardships.
Recipients of the 2008 Colin Higgins Youth Courage Awards each received a grant of $10,000
and will be honored at The Trevor Project Awards Gala in New York City on June 30th
(www.thetrevorproject.org). The Trevor Project operates the nation's only 24/7 suicide and crisis
prevention helpline for gay and questioning youth. The recipients will also be awarded an
expense-paid trip to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's "Creating Change Conference"
Of his work with Chicago's Youth Pride Center, winner Perre Shelton says, "I see the kinds of
choices young people are confronted with and the love they are looking for. I want to teach
people to love themselves so they can make healthy choices."
Colin Higgins Foundation's Youth Courage Awards program is administered by Tides
which partners with donors and institutions by offering donor-advised funds, philanthropic advice
and management services for progressive social change philanthropy. Since the year 2000, Tides has served as one of the nation's leading funders of LGBT and AIDS / HIV activism nationally and globally. Tides has granted more than $7 million to LGBT issues and more than $21 million to AIDS / HIV issues. Tides LGBT work also includes the Out of Home Youth Fund which focuses on improving the lives of LGBT youth living in foster care, in the juvenile justice system and on the streets.
The 2008 Colin Higgins Youth Courage Award winners include:
DEVON BEARDEN, 16. Devon has spent her life living for extended periods of time with her nana when her chronically ill mother was unable to care for her. While living with her nana, an out lesbian and activist who is the co-founder and current director of the Center for Artistic Revolution, CAR, in Little Rock , Arkansas , Devon searched in vain for resources for LGBTQ youth. While CAR serves the LGBTQ community, its youth program was very small. When Devon asked her nana about National Day of Silence, her nana told her, "Our resources are very limited, if you want to make this happen, then you have to step up." Devon then organized the school's first "Day of Silence," and mobilized a youth contingent to oppose a law that would have barred LGBTQ people from becoming adoptive or foster parents. She then started a GSA at Central High School. She participated in the ACLU’s Freedom Files documentary about the fight for LGBTQ equality and was recently awarded the Arkansas ACLU’s Champion of Liberty Award for her advocacy. Devon is also one of the founding members of CAR's youth and young adult program DYSC, Diverse Youth for Social Change. The program now boasts over 70 members, most of whom are LGBTQ youth. Recently Devon moved to Greensville , South Carolina to be with her mother and started the first GSA at her new high school there. Devon wants to "live to see the day when people realize how backwards it was to treat queers the way they do now." In all her work, Devon is purposeful about making the connections between racism, classism and gender identity and in stressing the importance of reaching youth of color.
KYLE RAPINAN, 17. Raised in Seattle Washington, Kyle ran away from home his freshman year of high school to escape his older brother, whose beatings were so severe that Kyle - whom he called "little faggot" - was hospitalized several times each year. While homeless and fighting in the courts to gain protection from his brother and an agreement from his mother to allow him to transfer into foster care, Kyle began working for the rights of LGBT youth. During this time, school was a safer haven for Kyle and he began working to ensure that all LGBT students could enjoy a safe school and learning environment. Kyle leads his high school's Gay Straight Alliance, which provides training for teachers and administrators, organizes dances and safe spaces for LGBT
youth. He is the Washington state representative for GLSEN National and a member of Safe Schools Coalition with American Friends Service Committee. He has advocated for LGBT youth in his home state and in others, such as Florida, where he collected signatures for a commitment for safer schools. Kyle says it has been important for him to bring his full experience as someones who grew up poor and as a person of color, into discussions of LGBT rights. Kyle is exploring a career in politics to advance social justice.
PERRE SHELTON, 20. Hailing from Calumet City, Illinois, Perre was a three sport athlete his freshman year of high school when he became the target of a group of ten boys, who began
regularly “bashing” him on his way home from school, leaving him bruised and bloodied. Not ready to be out to his family, Perre hid his injuries, telling his mother they were from sports.Chicago became Perre’s home as an activist and artist, and has deeply informed his growth in both areas. At 15 Perre came out and began entering slam poetry competitions. He quickly rose to the top of the local slam scene, winning Chicago’s citywide "Louder than Bomb" competition and becoming the youngest Def Jam poet featured on HBO’s “Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry”. Today Perre works with the Youth Pride Center, chairing the youth council that shapes programs, leads writing workshops, and mentors young poets. He is supporting YPC’s move to Chicago’s South Side, where there are few resources for African American LGBT youth. Perre is a student at Harold Washington College and plans to teach high school English after graduating and to someday operate his own youth center. He also currently works with Taproots Inc., traveling to colleges, high schools and churches spreading HIV/AIDS awareness through poetry
and interactive conversation with young people.
The winners of this year's Colin Higgins Courage Awards join a stellar group of previous winners, all of whom have demonstrated the capacity to inspire others to discover their own value through their example, their tenacity and their leadership. A list of previous winners can be found at
About Colin Higgins Foundation
Colin Higgins, acclaimed screenwriter, director and producer of films such as Harold and Maude
and Nine to Five, established the Colin Higgins Foundation in 1986 to further his humanitarian
goals. In addition to the Youth Courage Awards, Colin Higgins Foundation supports organizations
that build the power and leadership of LGBT youth (ages 13-24) through grassroots organizing
and/or comprehensive leadership development to bring about institutional change in the legal,
political, economic, or cultural structures that impact their lives. The foundation focuses on
historically underprivileged constituencies including, youth of color, transgender, immigrant, lowincome
or rural youth and/or youth in reservation communities. To learn more, visit www.colinhiggins.org.
Tides actively promotes change toward broadly shared economic opportunity, robust democratic
processes and the opportunity to live in a healthy and sustainable environment where human
rights are preserved and protected. Tides is a nonprofit organization founded in 1976 and
provides an array of services that amplifies the efforts of forward-thinking philanthropists,
foundations, activists and organizations to make the world a better place. Tides,
Tides Center and Tides Shared Spaces have collaborated with over 15,000 individuals and
organizations that have touched millions of lives across the country and around the globe. With
offices in San Francisco and New York City, Tides provides fiscal sponsorship for over 200
groups across the country, operates and supports green nonprofit centers and has granted more
than $600 million since 2000 alone. For more information, visit www.tides.org.
Copyright © 2008, Colin Higgins Foundation, Tides. Other names used in this press
release may be trademarks of their respective owners.