What is the Equality Ride?
Every day, thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people suffer harassment, violence, and discrimination at the hands of those who do not understand them. This oppression usually masks itself in standard practices and the status quo, masquerading as rigid doctrine or timeless tradition. Consequently, it often goes unchallenged and unchanged. Guided by principles of nonviolence, we at Soulforce approach these controversial issues with a readiness to meet people where they are. It is our belief that open and honest discussion begets understanding and healing, and that philosophy is at the heart of our work.
The Equality Ride is a traveling forum that gives young adults the chance to deconstruct the injustice and the rhetoric that sustains it. It allows emerging young leaders to unite in the struggle for common equality. The idea is this: We get on a bus and journey to various institutions of higher learning. Through informal conversation and educational programming we explore concepts of diversity, comparing the effects of inclusive and exclusive viewpoints. More practically, we share and gain insights about how our beliefs influence policy and culture, thereby impacting society. Our goal is to carefully and collectively examine the intersection wherein faith meets gender and sexuality. Such discourse, especially when it affirms the beauty of our differences, plays an essential role in creating a safe learning and living environment for everyone.
Thus far, the Equality Ride has engaged nearly seventy academic communities. Many have shown considerable hospitality in welcoming us, and our legacy at those schools is one of mutual growth and compassionate fellowship. In addition to panels and school-wide symposiums, we have joined students in cafeterias and coffee shops, participated in Bible studies and worship services, and given presentations in packed classrooms. Unfortunately, not every school chooses to host the Equality Ride. Voluntary redemptive suffering in the form of civil disobedience may become our avenue towards progress if, and only if, a school ignores the urgency and rejects dialogue.
A Movement in itself, the Equality Ride is empowering future generations to put their faith in action and make social justice a reality.
Who can go on the Equality Ride?
The Equality Ride is open to all young adults between the ages of 18-30, upon submission of application. Riders are selected from diverse backgrounds – including cross sections of race, class, faith backgrounds (or lack thereof), ability, gender expression and identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, size, education levels, and more.
What is the level of commitment required to go on the Equality Ride?
The Ride takes a considerable amount of time and energy. Applicants must be available for the following dates:
January 3rd – January 11th, 2012 – First Rider Training
February 26th – March 4th, 2012 – Second Rider Training
March 4th – April 29th, 2012 – Equality Ride Program
April 30th – May 2nd, 2012 – Ride Debrief
In addition, there will be conference calls and virtual study sessions between the first and second trainings. We understand that these dates fall within a semester of most colleges and universities and because these same institutions are our areas of focus, this is a necessary commitment. Many of our Riders have been able to work the Ride into a school project, thesis study, or dual credit program. Some Riders have taken a semester off from college to participate in the Ride. Others have taken leaves of absence from their jobs and other commitments and some have even quit. Please inquire how to work with your institution, employers, and other commitments to be able to complete the Ride. ALL Riders must be available for the dates listed above.
How much does it cost to go on the Equality Ride?
Because the Equality Ride is committed to accessibility, we believe that folks from all levels of socio-economic status should be able to engage in activism. When a Rider is selected for the Equality Ride all of their Ride related expenses are covered, including transportation to and from any trainings for the Ride, all activities, food, housing, and specific needs accommodations. There is an expectation that Riders will help with the recruitment of new sources of funding. These may include participating in fundraisers and encouraging family, friends, and organizations to support your Equality Ride journey, which allows us to provide this experience at no monetary cost to the participants.
What experience/skills will I need to go on the Equality Ride?
All trainings and Ride participation are designed to be accessible to folks with varying degrees of activism and community organizing experience. Past Rider’s experience levels have ranged from beginner to the most seasoned of professionals. Regardless of your particular level of experience, we provide the tools and trainings you will need to be an effective Rider and community organizer. In addition to the training and tools provided, we encourage applicants who posses any or all of the following skill sets:
The ability to network and build coalitions, the ability to set and complete goals, the ability to start conversations and build dialogue with complete strangers, being able to discern your own needs and the needs of others, developing interactive and engaging presentations and programs that both entertain and educate, technical skills (computer and internet skills, operation of film and audio equipment, etc.) and an overall good work ethic.
How do participants get picked to go on the Equality Ride?
Interested participants must complete and submit an application to go on the Equality Ride. After submission of the application, folks can expect 1-3 interviews before a final decision is made about a space on the bus. Because spaces are limited, not all who apply will be accepted to participate as Equality Riders, although other opportunities to work with the Ride and Soulforce will be available to all applicants.
Will I receive the training I need to be an Equality Rider?
There will be two one-week long training camps prior to the launch of the 2012 Equality Ride. Riders must attend both trainings and be present for their entirety in order to be accepted as Equality Riders. In addition to these trainings there will be ongoing development and mentoring throughout the 2012 Equality Ride. There will also be conference calls, email discussions, and assignments to complete between the training sessions and prior to the launch of the 2012 Equality Ride.
How do I prepare to go on the Equality Ride?
While training is provided to Riders, it is important that an emphasis be placed on self education. There is no way that two weeks of training can prepare us for the experience of the Equality Ride so study and reading suggestions will be given to each Rider after the application process is complete. In addition, there will be study sessions and conference calls between training sessions and the Ride. In the meantime you can read up about relentless non-violent resistance on the Soulforce website to better prepare yourself.
Can the Equality Ride accommodate disabilities?
We strive to accommodate folks from all areas and of all levels of ability. Every reasonable precaution is taken to address dietary needs, physical needs (wheel chairs, walkers, etc.), and mental needs (peer mediation, etc). It should be noted, however, that we often travel under very strenuous and stressful circumstances, and we enter spaces over which we do not have complete control. Before committing to the ride you should confirm with your mental health professional that you are in a condition to undergo this experience.
What are the housing, food, and travel accommodations on the Equality Ride?
Most often Riders sleep two to a bed with two beds per room (four Riders to a room) in hotel type accommodations and all housing throughout the Ride is covered by Soulforce. Riders are given food stipends (allowances) throughout the Ride, and every reasonable effort is made to accommodate those with dietary needs and requests such as frequent food stops as well as grocery store trips. At times, Riders may be expected to spend up to fifteen hours on an individual bus trip and are kept to a strict schedule throughout the Ride.
Can I maintain anonymity while on the Equality Ride? What if I’m not out?
All Riders should expect at any time to be photographed or video recorded. These photos and videos are used for a number of reasons such as news articles and press coverage. All Riders must sign waivers allowing photos and video coverage that may identify them to the general public. While some Riders have succeeded in using aliases, it is important to note that there is absolutely no way to maintain complete anonymity. If you are not out to your family, friends, or community, there is a very good chance that the public nature of the Equality Ride could out you so we suggest that applicants are either already out or ready to deal with whatever repercussions may result.
Do you only go to Christian colleges?
While much attention has been paid in the past to Christian campuses and institutions, we are committed to going anywhere and everywhere required to educate folks about the spiritual and political oppressions placed on LGBTQ individuals. This can, and has included public institutions.
Do I have to be Christian to go on the Ride?
No. Soulforce is an interfaith organization, and as such we are committed to including believers and non-believers with diverse perspectives. However, much of the work we do is within Christian circles, Riders are expected to be mindful of the beliefs of those we are trying engage in Dialogue. We often study those beliefs as to better understand the necessary discussions. It is never ok for a Rider to mock, ridicule, or disrespect the faith traditions of others.
How does funding work for the Ride? Where does it come from?
Soulforce is a registered 501(c)3 Non-profit. Because of this status we are able to solicit financial support from donors and foundations. Much of the funding for the Equality Ride comes from generous grants from foundations invested in the purpose and mission of Soulforce, however a large chunk of funding is raised by the riders themselves through participation in fundraisers and encouraging financial support through social connections.
What can Soulforce do to support me in my activism after the Ride?
Soulforce is invested and training and supporting the Social Justice leaders of today and tomorrow. Post-Ride you will find many opportunities within Soulforce for additional volunteer work and training.
What is a day like on the Ride?
A day on the ride varies greatly depending on the area we are in, and changes based on the needs and responses of the institutions and communities with which we engage. However, most days are long. We start early, and end late. In the same day we can find ourselves involved in a vigil calling attention to outrageous practice by an individual or entity – and in the next moment be leading a high profile training, community event, resource fair, or theater performance. One thing is certain: while on the ride you will use every creative bone in your body to engage folks in dialogue and enact real change in the communities we visit. The days are long, but the training and hands-on experience you receive is priceless. You will also be part of very tight knit community of past riders and activists, making friendships and connections that will last a lifetime.
Where does self-care fit in on the Ride?
While the days are long, and the work we do is hard and taxing, we are certain to pay particular attention to self-care. Whenever possible time is allotted for meditation, hygienic needs, spiritual needs, and mental health needs. There will also be afternoons and moments on the ride that are all about fun and adventure.
What are the standards of behavior and expectations from Soulforce for Riders?
All riders must sign a community agreement and contract agreeing to abide by certain standards and rules while on the Equality Ride. To summarize: While on the ride you are expected to act at all times with decorum and dignity. You are in all moments for the time we are together a representative of Soulforce. Intolerance, hate speech, abuse in ANY form, non-civil disobedience law breaking, and indifference are strictly prohibited. All Riders must abide by the ethos statement and mission of Soulforce, including agreeing to live within the principles of nonviolence.
Can my partner come on the Ride too?
Is there time for fun on the Ride?
Absolutely! We will visit diverse parts of our country and make every attempt to experience as much culture and fun along the way as possible. The Ride is hard, and at times very difficult, but it is also one of the most memorable and rewarding experiences of a lifetime. You will make deep connections that will last forever.
Where will the Ride go this time?
Each year the route is different! Stay tuned!
What kinds of material resources do I need to have to participate? (a phone? access to internet? how often? discretionary money? nice clothes? a bible?)
Much of the ride planning and training is done virtually. It would be very difficult to participate without regular access to a computer and a phone. Uniform tops are provided as part of the Ride experience. You will be expected to bring dress bottoms (pants, skirts, etc..). Specific details will be given upon acceptance. Little to no discretionary money is needed to complete the ride. You will be asked to bring a Bible on the ride, however one can be provided for you if necessary. Whenever possible we try to aid in getting you the resources you will need to be a successful Equality Rider.
If you have additional questions, please contact: email@example.com