Anti-bullying rally honors teen’s work

........................................................................................................................................................................................

Richard White didn’t know Carlos Vigil well before the 17-year-old Los Lunas teen took his own life last month after years of bullying.

Clara Garcia-News-Bulletin photo: More than 50 people attended the “Carlos ‘CarrCarr’ Vigil Anti-Bullying Movement” on Saturday morning at Anna Becker Park in Belen. Pictured, from left, is Vigil’s mother, Jacqueline Vigil; his grandmother, Dolores Marquez; and aunt, Monica Marquez.

But White knew exactly what Vigil was feeling in the years, days and minutes leading to his death.

White, unlike Vigil, wasn’t successful in his attempts at suicide. He, too, was bullied for most of his life by classmates, strangers and even people in his own family. White feels his purpose now is to carry on Vigil’s message — his passion — informing others about the affects of bullying and trying to let them know they are not alone.

In an effort to bring the issue of bullying to the forefront, White, 29, organized the rally Saturday morning at Anna Becker Park in Belen. He says it’s the first of many such rallies to come.

The first “Carlos ‘CarrCarr’ Vigil Anti-Bullying Movement” was attended by more than 50 people, including Vigil’s family and friends, as well as Sen. Michael Sanchez (D-Belen), Rep. Kelly Fajardo (R-Belen) and Belen Mayor Rudy Jaramillo.

Dolores Marquez, Vigil’s grandmother, first got to know White when he introduced himself to the family last month during one of the events after Vigil’s death. She said White kept insisting that he wanted to continue Carlos’ message.

“I decided if we were going to continue Carlos’ message, it was going to have to be Richard and myself, because (Carlos’) parents just can’t handle it right now,” Marquez said. “Richard has been awesome. He uses me as a sounding board, and he’s just taken off with it — he’s been a catalyst. It’s awesome. I’m thrilled, I’m so excited.”

As more and more people showed up at the park Saturday morning, White grew more and more excited to share Vigil’s vision. He said Saturday’s rally was just the beginning, and hopes to organize other rallies across the state, and one day, across the country.

White, a Belen High School and University of New Mexico graduate, also hopes to organize assemblies in New Mexico middle and high schools to let teenagers know they’re not alone.

“I want them to know that if they are having a hard time, there are people there for them,” White said. “They can go to a friend, a family member or even one of us.”

As a former victim of bullying, White said he understands first-hand what the youth of today are going through. He says he can’t remember a time in his life he wasn’t bullied.

“People find any reason they can to bully other people,” he said. “They found many reasons about what they could attack me with, and for a long time, I went into a dark place. I admit that I had numerous addictions and then came the attempts (of suicide). Thankfully, I had some amazing doctors, who literally saved my life.”

White said it was after he started telling people and family members about his sexuality that his grandmother, who passed away in 2009, sat him down and told him that if he didn’t change his ways — his addictions and suicide attempts — things were going to get worse.

“She set me straight and she was literally my lifesaver,” White said of his grandmother. “Even though she is gone, and it’s been hard, I’ve been able to connect with the Vigil family and I know that I’m not alone and I can stand strong.”

Although White regrets his past actions, he said he wouldn’t change anything because he’s learned valuable life lessons from his experiences — both good and bad.

“I met Carlos a few times before his death,” White said. “Because I am a survivor of bullying, I really related to him. I saw myself in him. I felt his pain. It was just a couple of months that I knew him and he was gone. Hopefully this will make him proud.”

A week before his death, Vigil was in North Carolina at a YMCA Youth Conference on National Affairs, an event for youth to present state and national legislation, where he delivered his proposal on anti-bullying.

Vigil’s proposal is what White is trying to carry on, trying to get people to think about and take action on. He said he will continue to make sure Carlos’ voice is heard.

As White continues to plan for the next rally in Los Lunas, he says he has never been as proud of something he’s been a part of until now.

“My mom told me that she’s never seen me smile so big,” White said. “It gives me a lot of joy knowing that I can get Carlos’ voice heard. It’s not only his mission, it’s now my mission.”

The next rally is tentatively scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 7, at Daniel Fernandez Memorial Park in Los Lunas.


-- Email the author at cgarcia@news-bulletin.com.