Monday, January 7, 2019

The Unsung Heroes of the Anti-Registry Movement

Do you love football? I do. It is playoffs season. The NFL playoffs started this past weekend, and the NCAA college football championship is tonight. Chances are, even if you aren’t a big football fan, or even know much about the sport, you probably know that the quarterback is the flashiest, most well-known position on the football field. Even when you played backyard football going up growing up, you most likely wanted to be the quarterback. The quarterback gets the most attention, when’s the biggest awards, and usually makes the most money.

Even in the anti-registry movement, most folks want to be the quarterback. However, a football team needs more than a quarterback.

Have you thought about what it takes to make a football team successful? Obviously, you need more than a quarterback. There are 11 people on offense and defense. You need people who can catch the ball, you need running backs you can run the ball, you need people who can block, and you need people who can kick the ball. Then, there are the coaches; you have the head coach, assistant coaches, and coaches that work specifically on a position. For every level of football below the professional level, coaches work for the school, and it is up to the school to adequately raise the funds needed to field a successful team. It is really no different at the professional level, except that responsibility falls on the hands of a private owner rather than a school. Don’t forget the support personnel, from the cheerleaders to the water boy to the people working inside the medical tents. Every one of these positions on and off the field must click together to be successful.

Obviously, in our efforts to reform the registry, there are some people who received the most attention because they are the heads of various organizations. However, there are plenty of people working at various positions in this movement that don’t receive a lot of attention. Their positions aren’t the flashiest, and obviously they receive little attention. Some of them don’t even want their names to be listed publicly. That is very understandable. After all, we are a very unpopular team. However, we have plenty of fans who support our efforts, even if they don’t proudly sport the team colors.

Since this movement has settled into his current form in 2008, many people have come in to play various positions within the movement, and left for various reasons. Some have died, others left because of personal reasons, and if you may have left because they did not feel they receive the recognition they deserve. In football, teams are always dealing with personnel changes, as players retire, get injured, or transferred to another organization. Obviously, not everybody can be the quarterback. Even a fanatic of a particular sports team cannot name a journeyman utility player from five years ago. However, that player came in and performed in that position to help their team to success.

I wish there was a better way to recognize these people. Not everybody we have worked with over the years shared their identities with people nor have they wanted anyone to know who they really were. Many of us fear taking the field because if we get recognized, it may cause us to be attacked, harassed, or lose our jobs and homes. However, those of us who have fought hard for this team, our anti-registry team, should be recognized for our efforts.

In December 2016, I went to Miami to hand out underclothes and toiletries to the homeless camp. Even though I was the “QB” of this event, I did not work alone; a member of SOSEN and his wife had shown up to help me put together the care packages. They lived somewhere in the central part of Florida, and drove down to help. They had also helped me buying some of the clothing items and toiletries. There were over 250 people listed as living at the homeless camp, so even after raising $1000, that came to a mere four dollars per person. Everyone who donated also helped to make this event a success. That money was used to make small miracles happen in the lives of the homeless registrants. I even had enough money left over to buy them other supplies in need by a handful of registrants living at the camp. One of the men we had  met previously at the camp also helped me distribute the care packages. “Christmas at the Camp” 2016 was indeed a team effort.

I want to talk a little more about the couple who came down to help. The husband was someone who had actually showed up at my “Rally in Tally” 2015 protest against the Books, the people responsible for making that homeless camp in the first place. It was a longtime member of SOSEN. However, his wife had been afraid for him to show up at my rally, and for years was reluctant to help the cause out of fear. She was also not of great health. Yet, she wanted to help the people at the homeless camp. She came down and helped with putting together the care packages. I took them to lunch, a modest meal at KFC, and we stopped at the store to buy some last-minute supplies, and then they had to leave. (After all, it was a 4 Hour drive just to get to Miami.)

A couple of months later, I had learned that the SOSEN member’s wife had passed away due to health issues. However, there was comfort in knowing that before that day had come, she had taken the field to be part of the game after years of fearing even being in the stands. I was honored to have both of these people attend and help during Christmas at the Camp.

There are a many other people will come and gone in various ways. NARSOL has endured the deaths of a couple of their staff members over the years, and last year we lost eAdvocate. But not everybody who passed away is known to us. We are constantly faced with finding new recruits to help fill in the gaps, just as every football team has to draft new people to fill in injured, lost, or retired players.

I would like to recognize those who have contributed to this cause over the years. There are so many people behind the scenes helping to keep this team on the field, and, as imperfect as we are, we have made great strides in changing how people view the public “sex offender” registry. While we can’t all be quarterback, I believe we can give recognition to our punters, our defensive players, and even sure support to those whose only contribution is finding our efforts. It takes a collective effort from every position to make our team’s success, so while our quarterbacks might indeed lead our team to victory, we should not forget the rest of the team doing their part to help us in victory.

In another week, I will start voting for the annual Shiitake Awards. However, I also want to give recognition to the BEST of those that have helped to reform the registry. And to be honest, I cannot pick just one single person to offer this award to, so I’ll just pick a few people. I have named it the Duval Award in honor of Mary Duval, so it is fitting that I recognize the staff at SOSEN as my inaugural Duval Award winners. For years, SOSEN has offered an online forum for support and research for registered persons and their loved ones. SOSEN has provided these services free of charge. In the past year, SOSEN has also helped OnceFallen with projects like the ARM Art Protest in Maine (two SOSEN staffers helped in person at the event) and through the posting of various topics on the front pages of their forum. For years, I have offered SOSEN’s forums to those who contact me seeking a support network. Recently, SOSEN also suffered a death in their ranks, a long time behind-the-scenes advocate who had helped Mary Duval during her trip to Miami in 2009. Thus, I find it fitting that everyone at SOSEN should be recognized as the inaugural Duval Award.

I hope that in the future, I can recognize more people, and I want individuals throughout the year to share their stories of success, whether big or small. Again, not everybody has to be to quarterback, but everybody can do their part, no matter how big or how small, even if it is not much more than writing a letter to a legislator, comforting or assisting a fellow registrant, or simply donating to one of the various organizations out there (I suggest donating to OnceFallen, of course). Football games are not won by throwing for the touchdown every single play; sometimes it helps just to advance the ball to inches closer to the goal line. So please, do your part to make 2019 the most successful year for our anti-registry movement ever.

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