After a candlelit moment of silence, one by one, a dozen people stepped up to the stage and read the story of another victim.
Among them: the 16-year-old child prodigy who gassed himself inside his father's car; the 11-year-old boy who was chased around a playground until he collapsed and died; and the 8-year-old girl who took her jump rope and hanged herself.
Every single one of them and hundreds, perhaps thousands, more were victimized by bullies. Sunday night at the Wildflower Café in Bethlehem, about 50 people took a stand against bullying.
The event, called Lavender Tears, was at once a rally and an art show, as organizer Cynthia Rodriguez of Allentown invited both performers and visual artists to demonstrate their talents around the bullying theme. The visual art exhibit will remain on display at the café on South New Street for the next two weeks.
Rodriguez, an artist and proprietor of the Underworld Art Studio in Allentown, said she was inspired to put together this event two months ago as several suicides linked to school bullying began to draw national attention.
"I was enraged by what was going on and I felt like I had to do something about it," she said.
The performances included poetry and prose by local writers, interpretive dance to a song about a bullied girl and a reading and performance of the most banned children's book in America of the last five years.
The book, "And Tango Makes Three," is based on a true story about two male chinstrap penguins in New York City's Central Park Zoo who were observed trying to hatch a rock-shaped egg. When zookeepers realized that Roy and Silo were both males, they gave them an egg to hatch and a healthy female named Tango was the result.
Dan Sottile and Liza Shankar of Nazareth's Insomniak Theatre performed the book, with Shankar reading and Sottile entertainingly acting the part of the animals at the zoo.
"In a world where we have to fight to keep this book from being banned," Shankar said, "are we really surprised that we have to fight bullying?"
Rodriguez said the bullying of gay youth in America has become "almost epidemic" and resulted in suicides and hate-crimes. In one of her visual arts pieces, she advocates teaching gay youth self defense.
The 10 visual artists who display their work at the exhibit are "really courageous for doing this," Rodriguez said. Many of them took the time to explain their own experience with bullying. "This is a very personal exhibit."
Though the performances and exhibit did tackle lesbian and gay themes, it was clear that the focus was still children and teen-agers who are victims for a myriad of reasons. This was never more the case than when 13-year-old Bridget McGinn of Wilson took the stage to sing "Beautiful," a song popularized by Christina Aguilera in 2002.
Bridget, a student at Philip Lauer Middle School in Wilson, is often targeted by her peers because of her size, said her father, Michael. She is about a head taller than most of the boys in her class.
McGinn had to wipe tears away as his daughter sang the words "I am beautiful, no matter what they say. Words can't bring me down."
"A lot of people think you need to be in a clique to survive middle school," Bridget told the assembled later on. "That's not true. You can just be yourself."