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Soulforce is pleased to commend Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia for their recent work to convene fellow Historically Black Colleges and Universities in a discussion about sexuality and gender.
An additional news article on the event can be read here.
The Soulforce Equality Ride has visited two of the schools convening for this event: Morehouse and Spelman. Soulforce Director of Programs and 2010 Equality Ride Alumnus Jason Conner had this to say:
“I am so pleased with the progress that Spelman and Morehouse have made. Morehouse was one of the best stops we had on the 2010 Equality Ride. The administrators really care about their students and the students are the most passionate seekers of justice I have ever met. I really hope that the 2012 Equality Ride gives us the chance to visit these schools again. In the interim, we are here and willing to provide any efforts and resources requested.”
by Kimmy Devries
Today I was thinking about the profound affect Soulforce has had on my life. What if the Equality Ride hadn’t come to Calvin College in 2007? The impact of the 33 Riders who came to my school is so much bigger then this article I found in the Chimes would lead anyone to believe. In some ways, I think I’m an incredibly different person because of this. I found my voice. I started speaking up about queer issues. I was inspired by the Riders boldness and courage to do what I had always been afraid to do. Then I met a seven Calvin students who wanted to make things better at Calvin. Somewhere between the Riders and my new friends at Calvin I finally made sense of myself. I realized I am queer. It turns out, straight women do not find women attractive (as in date worthy) in addition to finding men attractive. I started getting involved with activism and there was an interesting switch in the straight to queer friend ratio. I now have some of my best friends in the world because of the Equality Ride coming to Calvin. The summer after my final year at Calvin, I was accepted into Q Camp with Soulforce. I learned a ton about intersectional social justice, it changed my frame work for doing justice. I also met my amazing woman at Q Camp and now we’re dating and I’m in love and ended up here in Kansas City. Aside from Yantezia, I’m also grateful for the other Q Campers who are amazing activist that I can go to for friendship and activism advice.
by Brian Murphy
Six months ago, I started working with Soulforce, running our web and media efforts. I have a three year history with Soulforce which started as a 2007 Equality Rider. Soulforce retained me just as the 2010 Equality Ride was setting out and a week into the campaign, I joined them in North Carolina for a visit to Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Some things I remember: the long hours, the instant bond between riders, the unmistakable feeling that we are doing something truly remarkable. Some things were different: the diverse group of riders were even better prepared and more intentional… the ride improves every year.
After our short visit to Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, I spent the entirety of a community picnic speaking with a seminary student. We talked about The Law and Leviticus for three hours. It was grueling and utterly exhausting. During that conversation I also connected, briefly, with another seminary student. The student joined us later that night for conversation in our hotel lobby and for lunch the following day. They shared a bit of their passions and joys, some struggles and theological differences they experienced at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. After talking with young adults about queer issues for three years, I have a pretty good sense of when a person wants to say something but can’t. I got that feeling from this person.
Today, that student, now a graduate, sent me a message. They shared a brief update on their life and then, almost in passing, mentioned that they are now in a queer relationship and could not be happier. They are starting to come out, they might lose their job at a Baptist church, but all will be well.
That is all I have to share today: that six months ago I spent three hours talking about Leviticus in a park in rural North Carolina and today a Southern Baptist told me that they are beginning to love themselves. The Equality Ride never really ends. And thank goodness it doesn’t.
Please help us ensure the future of the Equality Rides be making a donation toward the next ride today.
by Darren Arquero
Sitting in Meadowlark Coffee & Espresso after our 14th school stop at Union College, the only thing that came to my mind was one thing: I was tired. I was tired from the lack of sleep and countless hours on the road. I was tired of watery hotel coffee. But most of all, I was tired at defending my humanity.
by Brian Adkins
Editors note: Brian Adkins, a 2010 Equality Rider, composed this note to his fellow Equality Riders. We reprint it here with his permission.
I joined the 2010 Soulforce Equality Ride not because I am queer, but because I am a Christian. I wanted to be a part of the dialog around the intersection of faith and sexuality and justice. Along the way, I have seen the best and the worst of Christianity. I have seen love beautifully and unconditionally expressed, and I have heard oppression called love. I have at times expressed my own truth eloquently, but more often I have fumbled with it clumsily like the lyrics to a song I have never heard before. My truth is a song still being written.
The last time I blogged for the interwebs, the Equality Ride had just finished its first stop at Valley Forge Christian College, several weeks later and now I am here to talk about our stop at Southwest Baptist University (SBU). The day was interesting starting off with a little gathering with our hosts in a conference room where we had a little chat and told them exactly why we were here: 1) Their policy clearly discriminates against the LGBTQ and allied students/faculty on the campus 2) To spread love and affirmation to said persons 3) to engage in true dialogue to foster change and provide safe spaces for those who identify to being LGBTQ and allies.
Next was chapel, which left quite a few riders in emotional turmoil as the topic was about missionary work and the speaker seemed ignorant about what he was saying and just condemning people to hell. I know I felt the spirit move me out of the chapel quickly, just get away from the rhetoric spewing out of that man’s mouth. After the chapel, a few of our Riders, particularly Isaiah and Asher, went and conversed with the speaker about their feelings and how offensive they found this chapel service. I hope the man actually took the words spoken seriously and will try a different approach to things in the future.
Skipping ahead, the awkward conversation about racism is blooming at SBU, a group of riders, students, and faculty members were a part of a panel that talked about what Soulforce was and the topic of LGBTQ persons on campus. One of the faculty members was just plain combative and could not even see a LGBTQ person as an actual human being. I give kudos to all the Riders that dealt with that woman because she was just plain rude!
With emotions still high, and many of our Riders experiencing spiritual violence, the Dean of Students, with permission, got on the bus to “talk” to us about how we experienced the day. If “talking” to us, was a rant about how we betrayed his trust by holding a vigil later that day, then yeah, we had some “great” dialogue. Several of the riders, challenged the administrator to actually listen to what we felt, and he did.
After this, the Equality Riders set up camp right outside the campus and some ate food from the awesome PFLAG parents, talked to community members and students, or simply just sang songs. It felt like a nice, sweet closing after the tumultuous and emotionally exhausting day defending our humanity and dealing with the rampant issues of racism on SBU’s campus.
by John Panganiban
My experience in Lincoln is good so far in that there are some initiatives towards equality extended to QTBLG (Queer, Transgender, Bisexual, Lesbian, & Gay- and YES IN THAT ORDER so don’t get it twisted) folks. The community really likes us being in town & it inspires them to be more open about being QTBLG. Though I found that I had to initiate the conversations about queer experiences and rights, that tells me that (1) they aren’t used to talking about it amongst themselves and (2) they are hesitant to talk about it for fear of being attacked or ostracized. When I did bring them back to the topic, I felt that they were very happy to talk about their personal experiences of being queer in Lincoln. I felt like they were resting their heads on my shoulder (figuratively) to find comfort and that is a feeling I can’t describe!
Yesterday, I met with an old colleague/friend & his boyfriend who showed me around town yesterday and we got to catch up on life & talk about what its like being queer in Lincoln. They are such an adorable couple and so deeply committed, but when I asked if they hold hands in public or kiss (PDA) like so many straight couples do (and take for granted), they said no. Again, they are in a beautiful relationship that’s lasted 3 years and still going strong. They shouldn’t have to worry about having to hide their love. I shudder to think that I might have to do that when I get into a relationship.
Earlier today, we were invited to an affirming church where there was great food, great people, and great discussion! I’m glad that our conversations weren’t just limited to LGB rights but also covered the T and it ventured towards talks about racism and affirmations of high school QTBLG groups. Our time was very limited though and it saddens me that it had to end so soon because the conversations were scintillating. There were some folks from different congregations, schools, and The Human Rights Campaign. I wish the representative stayed around for the racism conversation and that we didn’t have to spend so much time talking about other things that stalled the conversation that people needed to have. There were awesome Union College students & faculty in attendance as well. I heard many wonderful things and learned that the faculty created a “safe space” which has a mini LGBTQ resource library. There is a space set up with chairs where students can come, sit, chill, and find affirming faculty members. LGBTQ students are already making use of this space. This is a wonderful resource for Union students that I am thankful that they have.
While that is great, Union still needs to extend their anti-harrasment policy to include protection to QTBLG students. I’m also hoping that Union will encourage all faculty and staff to be safe zone trained- as some of them already have signs on their doors. We also hope to encourage a comprehensive RA (Resident Advisor) training so they could better respond to someone who identifies as QTBLG or an ally.
Upon hearing these gems, I’m very excited about our visit to Union College tomorrow! I’m very glad that I get to help pave the road to equality for all by clearing up some negative myth-conceptions about queer folks, advocating for the importance of safe spaces, highlighting the other -isms that is connected with homophobia, and build personal rapports with Union students, faculty, & the greater Lincoln community! Ciao for now.
Peace, Love, Namaste, & Equality for all!