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Sushanna Stern

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1 reviews

Review for Positive Images, Santa Rosa, CA, USA

Rating: 5 stars  

Make no mistake: Positive Images matters. It saves lives and serves as a beacon of hope for generations of youth whose voices are authentic reminders that self-identification is a process and the journey toward it is heroic and necessary, and welcome here.

The heart of Positive Images is action in service of human dignity. The legacy of Positive Images is, therefore, immeasurable. Its work, while local, has had profound effects on communities beyond our borders. I know firsthand how PI supported Adam Heintz who courageously came out in an editorial in the Vintage High School student newspaper in 1994. The piece begins with a confession of nights of insomnia, despair and depression. It continues with a fervant plea to every reader: “If racism is a loud whisper on campus, homophobia is a prolonged shriek, and it needs to be stopped.” And, it concludes with Adam’s heartfelt gratitude for the care and support of Jim Foster and Positive Images, because as he reminds those who might be struggling in the closet “the world is not Napa and Vintage, and even books and adults can be wrong.” Adam challenged us to ask a different set of questions.

On the day the newspaper was distributed, Jim Foster and members of the PI community joined Adam’s parents and older brother, the school principal, teachers, and students from the campus Amnesty International group to celebrate this milestone and to hold space in solidarity with Adam. Suffice it to say, the editorial was shocking by Napa standards and its publication was controversial among the staff, students and their families; however, it was also liberating and undeniably the start of a much needed larger conversation—one that would now take its place in the public discourse.

But, the story hardly ends there. Adam’s parents went on to organize Napa’s first PFLAG group. Adam graduated from Oberlin, worked at the NYC Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project, completed law school, and now practices in NYC. The Amnesty International student group produced more than 40 all-day teach-ins with focuses on identity-based issues, the global campaign to end violence against women, and other topics which expanded the definition of literacy to include human rights education. Jim Foster and members of Positive Images served as workshop presenters.

Immediately following its publication, hundreds of copies of Adam’s editorial were distributed to activists, artists, and teachers during human rights trainings for nongovernmental organizations, both here and abroad. An updated interview with Adam in 2001 and a reprint of the editorial were included in an expanded edition of The Fourth R magazine to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Amnesty International. The text is an important historical artifact—a testament to the courage of one young man and the power of hope he found at Positive Images.

It is my privilege to be a witness to this extraordinary story and to assure you that it is true. Indeed, the measure of Positive Images’ influence is incalcuable. Please be a part of supporting this life-changing work.

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