Volume 78 / Number 1 - June 4 - 10, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since

John Blasco, a volunteer with FIERCE!

Standing up for gay youth and combating prejudice

By Joy Wiltermuth

John Blasco, 19, is a gay youth living in the East Village. Through his work as a volunteer, and through a kind, humble approach, he has built relationships in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community that span the Downtown community and the city. During his senior year, he was president of the Gay-Straight Alliance at Edward R. Murrow High School in Brooklyn. Since graduation, he has become vocal about issues affecting his community.

Through involvement in FIERCE!, Blasco says he stands up for what he believes in. He became involved with the organization after attending a Friday hip-hop event — and stayed on as a volunteer for nearly two years. Blasco has recruited many of his friends to join the gay youth organization, and recently took part in a five-week training program to become a youth peer.

Founded in 2000, FIERCE! is a West Village community action organization helping gay and transgender youth. Many of its members are youths of color and the group provides peer-to-peer social outreach. Its mission is to build bridges between movements for justice and to fight against homophobia, sexism, violence and the spread of H.I.V./AIDS.

Glo Ross, a FIERCE! organizer, said, “John has really matched up his leadership skills with the organization and helped push forward our work.” She said he gives great attention to others and at the same time has improved his own skills.

Last April, Blasco participated in the 12th Annual National Day of Silence. Through quiet protest, the event’s goal is to draw attention to the problem of harassment and bullying of L.G.B.T. youth in America’s schools.

This year’s vigil was held in memory of Lawrence King, 15, who was shot to death by a fellow student in a California school. The death occurred in February, after King’s sexual orientation became known. Blasco spoke at a vigil for King held in Sheridan Square Park on Christopher St.

“I never took part in such an overwhelming experience,” he said.

Blasco’s plan for the future is to become an activist for youth. He is involved in the campaign by FIERCE! to open a 24-hour center for gay youth at Pier 40 at W. Houston St. He said they need a comfortable, safe place to gather on the Lower West Side waterfront, and would like to see counseling and workshops for those afraid to come out.

“There are so many people who don’t know that changes are happening,” Blasco said.

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