Youth and Young Adults at the Soulforce Action in St. Louis

Thank you for taking the time and interest to visit the Soulforce Young Adult Web Page. As a group, young adults have played a crucial role in many social movements throughout history. On February 1, 1960 four African American young adults sat-in at an all white lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, helping to stimulate the Civil Rights Movement. On October 2, 1968 many young adults gave their lives by standing up for their right to protest in what is now known as the Tlatelolco Massacre. On June 4, 1989 hundreds of young adults died standing up for freedom and democracy in China’s Tiananmen Square. There existed within each of these brave young men and women a passion and fire to work for the ideals of freedom, equality, and justice.

Today’s young adults must strive to rekindle that fire in the struggle for the equality and acceptance of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender people. LGBT young adults are severely impacted by today’s inequality. Many LGBT young adults today live in communities where friends and family reject them. As young adults, we must feel an extra burden to help those who suffer. Soulforce takes a unique approach toward ending the suffering through focusing efforts for reform on one of the most common reasons for the suffering, religion. In striving for the acceptance of LGBT people in all religions, Soulforce strives to impact and change not only the hearts of those that are oppressed but also those that cause the oppression. As a young adult you can play a key role in ending that suffering. Please, take the challenge and join other Soulforce young adults in St. Louis at the Soulforce Institute for Nonviolent Change on June 7-9 and/or the Twenty-Four Hours of Justice on June 10-11. Together we can make a difference. Together we can make history.


Jacob Reitan
Young Adult Coordinator

Bio of Jacob: Jacob Reitan is a sophomore at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. Jacob is majoring in Communication Studies and Political Science. Jacob grew up in Mankato, Minnesota and graduated from Mankato West High School. Activism and social justice for the LGBT community has been an important part of Jacob’s life. In high school he helped in creating the first Gay / Straight Alliance. At Northwestern, Jacob serves at the activist chair for the LGBT student group on campus. Jacob is proud to be a part of the Soulforce team and greatly looks forward to being part of the future positive work of the organization.

A letter from Jacob:

Dear Peer,

Soulforce Inc. is an organization that works to make all faiths fully embracing of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender people. Sadly today, most faiths send a message of misunderstanding that rejects LGBT people. This message of rejection is commonly the origin of the hate directed at, and the personal despair felt by, individual LGBT people. This hate and despair is often magnified in LGBT youth. There are many youth, both closeted and open, who because of the message of their church live in a world where they are rejected by their faith, family and friends. That is why, as a young adult, I feel it is especially important that I help to change the message of violence sent out by institutions of faith into a message of love. This dangerous message of violence is also why, as the young adult coordinator for Soulforce, I want to create a large youth presence at all of Soulforce’s direct actions. I am writing you in hope that you and members of your organization will be part of that large young adult presence at Soulforce’s next direction action coming up in June at the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting in St. Louis.

I want to stress that you or members of your group do not have to be Baptist, Christian or of any particular faith to stand with us. That is the beauty of Soulforce. The members are made up of all faiths and beliefs. I got my first taste of this diversity this past summer in Indianapolis, Indiana where I participated in Soulforce’s direct action at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Churchwide Assembly. I was baptized, raised and confirmed in the Lutheran Church. My being gay has caused me to drift from the Lutheran Church. My heart was weak because of the loss of the Lutheran church in my life. I went to Indianapolis with a need to do something. Once I saw the large number of people, each with their different stories but all with the same need, I got a new feeling inside me. It was a feeling of hope and hope can do marvelous things.

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. I hope that it has sparked your interest and that you will join me and other young adults in St. Louis. I believe that together we can make a difference. Your presence and the presence of the members of your group at the St. Louis direct action would act as a beam of light, a presence of truth.

If you have any questions about St. Louis or other Soulforce related matters please feel free to contact me via email atj-reitan@northwestern.edu.

Sincerely,

Jacob Reitan


A Statement from Dr. Arun Gandhi on the Importance of Young Adults in Social Justice Work

Gandhi always considered the youth an important segment of society for two reasons. First, there is the expectation that the minds of the youth are still unpolluted by the dogmas and prejudices that corrupt society everywhere. Second, it is from the youth that the next leaders of society are going to emerge. It was for these reasons that Gandhi concentrated much of his efforts during the struggle for India’s freedom from British Colonialism to educating the youth and influencing their minds with positive principles. "If we are to reach real peace, we must begin with the children," he said. It is the children who can learn new ways and transform society.

We don’t always have to destroy violently the old order but transform it gently with wisdom and foresight. Violence evokes negativity from people because only then can you dehumanize and destroy; whereas nonviolence evokes positive attitudes from people because it is based in love, respect, understanding and acceptance. An old sage once said: "Writing on a clean slate is more legible than writing on a cluttered slate." The youth of any society represent a clean slate.


Young Adult Schedule for St. Louis

Friday, June 7
– Registration in the early evening, followed by a reception and presentations on "doing justice"
– Young Adult Reception

Saturday, June 8
– Training and keynote by Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi and founder of the M.K. Institute for Nonviolence, as well as leaders of the Civil Rights movement, including Dr. Rodney Powell, who as a college student helped lead the Freedom Rides and lunch counter sit-ins, and the Rev. Bob and Jeannie Graetz, the Lutheran pastor and his wife whose home was fire-bombed twice for their courageous stand with Martin Luther King Jr. during the Montgomery bus boycott.
– Young Adult Seminar with Arun Gandhi
– Civil rights rally in the evening
– Young Adult Rally

Sunday, June 9
– Worship together at the place of your choice.
– Participate in specialized training sessions on negotiation and direct action with the Rev. Dr. Mel White and leaders from the Civil Rights movement followed by vigiling at the America’s Center as SBC messengers arrive.
– Young Adult Seminar with Mel White
– Premiere screening of new Soulforce video, "The Verdict Is In" (free copy to everyone in attendance)
– hour Young Adult caucus
– *Optional* Young Adult Social Outing
TWENTY-FOUR HOURS OF JUSTICE

Monday, June 10 (morning/afternoon)
– Baptists will "share the stories" of their faith journeys
– Informal discussions with Soulforce leaders and special guests
– Training for Soulforce local group leaders and prospective leaders
– *Optional* Young Adult Lunch

Monday, June 10 (evening)
Training to bring truth and justice to our Southern Baptist friends
– Required training for participation in remaining vigils and direct action
– hour Young Adult caucus

Tuesday, June 11
Bringing truth and justice to our Southern Baptist Friends
– March, vigils and media event at the America’s Center
– Direct action and possible civil disobedience
– Rally and celebration
– hour Young Adult caucus

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