|Jacob Reitan, 24, is Founder and Co-Director of the Soulforce Equality Ride. He grew up in Mankato, Minnesota in a Lutheran family and attended Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. Jacob created the Soulforce Equality Ride because of a friendship he forged in college with a young gay man who goes to Wheaton College. The stories of pain and hardship faced by this Wheaton student are what inspired Jacob to work to put an end to religious-based discrimination.|
|Haven Herrin, 24, is Co-Director of the Soulforce Equality Ride. She grew up in Dallas, Texas and attended the University of Richmond in Virginia. A Methodist when younger, she is now Buddhist. Haven took a leading role in the Soulforce Equality ride because she understands that her voice in the demand for justice is as necessary as that of any person, of any faith. Haven sees this journey as a unique opportunity for youth activism within the GLBT Movement; she knows that if the GLBT community is to sustain the fight for equality, young adults must have ability to be involved through direct action.|
|Jarrett Lucas, 20, is an engineering student in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at Drexel University. Raised by his grandparents as a Jehovah’s Witness, he offers firsthand experience with conservative religious thought. Having started college at age 15, Jarrett is brings an independent and articulate spirit to the journey. He seeks to protect the academic freedom of sexual minorities from homophobic fundamentalism. Jarret’s stand with the Soulforce Equality Ride is his statement that he will not cooperate with injustice by his silence.|
|Alexey Bulokhov, 26, is from Russia and currently lives in New York City. Having grown up in Soviet Russia, he keenly understands the connection between personal identity and social agenda. His activism started young with making a documentary about the abuse of the environment in his industrial hometown. He came to the United States to escape GLBT discrimination and to attend St. Lawrence University. Alexey joined the Soulforce Equality Ride because he sees it as a powerful reminder of how much work remains to be done to embrace, protect and celebrate humanity everywhere.|
|Monica Carmean, 20, is from Fresno, California and currently attends Northwestern University in Illinois. She is one of two straight allies on the Soulforce Equality Ride. Monica is intent on challenging the flawed assumptions of the bans on the enrollment of GLBT students and exposing the suffering the policies cause. The grassroots nature of the Soulforce Equality Ride and its expression of God’s unconditional love draw her to this journey.|
|Dawn Davridge, 23, lives in Knoxville, Tennessee and is motivated to be a part of the Soulforce Equality Ride because she was kicked out of Union University due to her sexual orientation. This ride is about her life and the life of any students, gay or straight, who are blinded by the fear and the hate promoted in the conservative Christian world. She wants to reclaim her faith and the true lesson from God – that He loves us all.|
To view all 35 of the riders please go to www.equalityride.com/riders.
Be sure to also check out the Blog for the 2007 West Bus.
Name: Tashana Brown
Hometown: Montego Bay, Jamaica
Families swear that they will stand by us for a lifetime, that they will never turn their backs on us. But today, after finding out who we really are, we cease to exist to them. No matter how hard we try to win back their affection and love we never seem to succeed; we are hurt to learn that we are not even capable of inspiring love and loyalty in those who should love us unconditionally. So how do we expect it from others?
It is with self-confidence, determination and pride in who we are that we earn the respect and loyalty of others. We are all human beings who were created equal by God and nobody has the right to judge us for who we are. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people were created to be who they are.
I am not a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender person, but I believe in the rights of every human being. I don’t believe in conforming to society’s norms, especially when doing so endangers the happiness, comfort and peace of mind of others. We should each be given the opportunity to enjoy the best that life has to offer. Through communication we hope to open the minds and hearts of those who discriminate against LGBT people, with the hope that they will accept LGBT people as equals.
Tashana has been sponsored a total amount of $.
Name: Susannah Morris
Hometown: Greenville, SC
I am a Christian. I am a young woman. I am a daughter. I am a sister. I am an aunt. I am a friend. I am a student. I am a straight ally. I am an Equality Rider. Most fundamentally, I am a child of God.
I’m a sophomore at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina. Participating in the Equality Ride definitely wasn’t part of my plan for my college experience—until I realized while studying for midterms this year that I’d lost sight of my vocation as I puttered from day to day. I wasn’t fully living the life that God was inviting me to live.
The journey of the Equality Ride challenges me to both seek justice for my LGBTQI sisters and brothers and to discover the life that God has put inside of me. I ride in honor of the first gay Christian I met, a dear friend and mentor, whose love, courage, and ministry have inspired me to proclaim the Gospel in this way. As I go, I hold in my heart the words of the prophet Micah: “What does the Lord require of you, but to seek justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” On this journey and through the rest of my life, I pray I will find a way to live more justly, love more fully, and walk always in awe of God’s work in the world.
Susannah has been sponsored a total amount of $.
Name: Stuart Brewster
Hometown: Valley Village, CA
When I began coming out in college, I was a member of a Bible study group with views strongly condemning homosexuality. I believed them when they told me I needed to change – that my gayness was really a spiritual sickness from which I needed to be healed. I prayed all the right prayers, read all the right books, and listened to all the right spiritual counselors. Yet nothing changed except that I felt more alone and worthless than ever.
Still, I was lucky. As I came out, I discovered support in some surprising places and was able to nurture my growing sense of identity at a nearby LGBT center. But in too many schools and institutions across the country, LGBTQ people are forced to sacrifice their authenticity to avoid getting kicked out, censured, or forced into harmful "reparative" therapy.
The Equality Ride’s purpose is to peacefully demonstrate and open dialogue in places where God’s love is not extended equally to all of his children, to begin easing some of those institutional barriers to authenticity one heart at a time. Just as importantly, I hope that in the places we visit, we will be visible to our silently suffering brothers and sisters, sending them a simple message: You are not alone.
Stuart has been sponsored a total amount of $.
Name: Rohit Kumar
Hometown: West Bengal
I completed my bachelor’s degree in Comparative Literature from Jadavpur University, Kolkata this year and am presently a graduate student in the Department of English at the University of Westminster in London. I am a queer youth activist and have presented several papers on queer identity in South Asia at various seminars and conferences in India and abroad. I have also made two films on queer identities and gender identity which have been screened at several venues throughout the country and have been made a part of the ‘Pride Library’ at the University of Western Ontario. I am currently the founder/assistant editor of a South Asian youth magazine, Kinaara.
Rohit has been sponsored a total amount of $.
Name: Nick Millar
Hometown: Cincinnati, OH
In this country, there are still many powerful institutions, including churches and universities, that enforce doctrine that adversely affects the lives of countless GLBT people. Millions of citizens stand by and support these institutions. At some colleges GLBT students are expelled because of who they are. In some denominations, gay pastors and clergymen are stripped of their titles and statuses if they disclose their sexual orientation. These prejudices are based on fear, and although many of these places preach love, tolerance, and acceptance for all, their actions do not represent that message.
As the Equality Ride travels cross-country, its message is that of compassion and a willingness to step out from that place of fear and connect with others who may fundamentally disagree with us. Our message comes rooted in the understanding that despite whatever opposing ideologies we may have, we must be willing to share with one another our values and perspectives as fellow human beings. Through this understanding, I believe we will be able to build connections based on mutual respect and ultimately realize we all have far more in common than not. This is an important step in changing how some churches, colleges, and families treat the GLBT community, and I want to be a part of that process. The Equality Ride combines my passion for social justice, eagerness to make new friends all over the country, and love of a good old-fashioned road trip. Lets spread the love.
Nick has been sponsored a total amount of $.
Name: Marsha Makatini
Hometown: Nairobi, Kenya
Growing up in a rural area in Africa, all I knew of life was that I was a human being that was born into this world. The confusion was difficult for me to handle – with different feelings in my soul and heart that were in contradiction to my body. I needed to accept myself, be strong, and continue on with my life; to find people who valued me – and try to work together with them in the interest of human rights.
What gives me strength to continue is the abuse so many people face–being beaten or facing mob-justice, or getting murdered only because they are LGBTI. The Equality Ride has given me a chance to learn, talk about experiences, injustices, and oppression. This is a great opportunity for me personally – and it will be a great chance to share my story. As an Equality Rider, I am looking forward to a powerful and encouraging journey with others.
Marsha has been sponsored a total amount of $.
Name: Kimmy Devries
Hometown: Grand Rapids, MI
When I was young, a very dear friend of mine came out to me. I knew that I still loved him, and that the only thing that had changed was that he was attracted to men instead of women. I was young but I knew that the world was not going to see him the same way I did. I knew I had to be a good friend to him and an ally to all gay people but I was unsure of what to do. For many years I continued to struggle to figure out the best ways for me to help. Then in 2007, the Equality Ride came to Calvin College, where I was a student. I could not sit by silently any longer, I had to act. I also learned that gay people were not the only ones discriminated against. I began to learn about people who are transgender, and found that they too wanted allies. I was inspired and encouraged by the Riders. I felt empowered to do something.
As the bus pulled away from Calvin I stood there with a handful of other students who also wanted to do more. We met and continued the conversation that had been started by the Equality Riders. This group of students, along with a few others, formed a GSA on our campus. This was the start of my education and journey in supporting all queer people. The 2007 riders changed my life and ever since I have been passionate about working for queer rights. I began dreaming of the day that I would be done with school so I could go on the Equality Ride. I worked everyday for justice while dreaming of going on the Ride. I hope that by going on this Ride I will be able to give students across the country a sense of empowerment, and give hope to religious LGBT students that they can reconcile their queer identities with their faiths. I also hope that the conversations that are started at these schools will continue after we leave, as they did at my school. Finally, I hope that some of the people I meet will find their new best friends, as I did mine.
The past Equality Rides have brought about great change already and I am so excited to be a part of this movement. I am reminded of what Nelson Mandela once said: "As we are liberated from our fear our presence automatically liberates others." I am so excited that I will be able to help liberate others from fear through this Equality Ride.
Kimmy has been sponsored a total amount of $.