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Editor's note: CNN's citizen journalism initiative, iReport, is celebrating its fifth birthday this month. To mark the occasion, we're taking a look at some of iReport's shining moments in a series of top five posts on a variety of topics. Here, CNN Marketing’s Nnedike Ugoji revisits five standout personal iReport stories. Nnedike usually works behind the scenes on iReport, as our link to CNN's marketing department. Most days you don't hear their voices on CNN.com, but as we celebrate five big years, it'd be a shame not to include one from the force behind all those awesome birthday t-shirts.
Opening up and sharing one’s vulnerabilities is hard to do, but you — our iReporters — do that every day. Over the past five years, you’ve shared some of the most inspiring and most gripping stories that have affected our community and, in many cases, changed how we cover a story.
Earlier this year, we instituted the inaugural CNN iReport Awards. This was an opportunity for us to honor and showcase examples of the most compelling iReports that you filed in 2010.
Here’s a look back at five of the most striking personal stories honored in the 2010 iReport Awards.
iReporter Faithe Chu, the winner of the personal story category, shared an iReport that was as inspiring as it was thought-provoking. Chu’s story brought to light a topic that had been unknown to many people.
Growing up in post-war Vietnam, Chu lived in constant fear, for she was an Amerasian (half Asian, half American), a group that was often discriminated against by the Vietnamese government. Chu says her mother dyed her hair and burned her birth certificate in order to keep her under the radar. Being Amerasian, Chu explained, brought embarrassment and shame to her family, simply because she was biracial. She went on to share how she and her mother escaped Vietnam and how she was able to start a new life in America.
Jeremy Johnson shared the coming-out letter he wrote to his commanding officer in order to show people how it felt to publicly reveal his sexual orientation while in the military. Johnson told us that living with the worry of being outed affected him mentally and physically. Toward the end of his letter he shared a powerful statement that was written on the tombstone of a deceased gay Vietnam veteran:
“When I was in the military they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one."
In America, the use of the N-word is a topic that has been debated for years. Many feel the word is insulting and offensive, while others feel the word has been redefined and no longer carries the same connotations. iReporter Trudy Stergiopoulos’ controversial iReport about her son’s use of the N-word sparked a passionate debate about race and parenting. She believes that although the word once had a derogatory meaning, it’s now used in a positive way. Stergiopoulos says that she personally doesn’t use the word, but she allows her children to do so, because they and their friends – of all races – do not think it’s a big deal.
We asked our iReporters who are transgendered, transsexual or grappling with their sexual identities to share a self-portrait that included a sign with a message that incorporated something they wanted people to know about them. iReporter Tara Elizabeth Grieb shared a challenging message that forced people to stop and think. Many transgendered individuals, she said, often find that they feel misunderstood, and Grieb is one of those people. One thing she wanted us to remember is that transgendered men and women are just like everyone else, and that she isn’t “your joke.”
Bullying is a serious issue that affects people from all walks of life. After coming out of the closet during his freshman year in high school, iReporter Ryan Basilio was continually bullied. When a group of students tried to attack him, he fought back. Basilio went on to explain how his school’s administration failed to step in, and as a result, he went to the American Civil Liberties Union and threatened to sue the school district if it didn’t take action. He shared his story to raise awareness of bullying and to encourage students, parents and teachers to take a stand against it.
These iReports are just small snapshots of the exemplary personal stories that you’ve shared over the years. Your stories have brought a human face to some of the most difficult topics we face today, and we are excited to see what stories you will share in the coming years.
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