Southern Voice, "Soulforce, Spelman work to increase gay visibility"

Soulforce, Spelman work to increase gay visibility

Gay religious group quietly meets with Atlanta colleges

Thursday, October 16, 2008
By Matt Schafer, Southern Voice

Gay students say no one cares if you’re queer at Spelman College so long as you don’t show any affection or remind others you’re gay in any way.

“It’s okay if we’re here so long as we’re silent,” said Jeshawna Wholley, president of the university’s gay organization, Afrekete.

“The atmosphere is kind of up in the air at the time because of a number of people aren’t out for obvious, social reasons,” Wholley, a junior psychology major, added.

Although started in the basement of a Baptist church, Spelman — a private, historically black women’s college — is not a Christian school. But many students at Spelman, as well as neighboring Morehouse College and Atlanta Clark University, do come from religious backgrounds and hold strong feelings about homosexuality.

“Some people will give you a look, and the you’ll find some people who are just completely loving and accepting,” Afrekete treasurer Angelica Tarmer said during an Oct. 10 visit to Spelman from Soulforce, a national group that addresses gay religious issues.

Soulforce’s Equality Ride stopped at Morehouse and Spelman last week as part of a tour of 15 campuses in the region. While Equality Ride organizers asked Morehouse to close its campus to media on Oct. 9 for what they called informal conversations with students, Spelman allowed media access to its visit.

“We just open up the campus and let them come,” Spelman spokesperson Angela Johnson said of Soulforce’s visit. “There’s no reason to deny them access.”

Unlike many of Soulforce’s stops at Christian colleges — nine of the Ride’s 15 visits this year are at Southern Baptist affiliated schools — the stops at Morehouse and Spelman garnered little attention from students and less from the media.

“We’ve said all along that the stops to Morehouse and Spelman were going to be different,” Equality Ride Co-Director Katie Higgins said. “If you don’t think it’s important that we’re here, go talk to the students who have said they’re so glad we’ve come this year. We’re here to support the women of Afrekete.”

Morehouse and Spelman were the third and fourth visits of Soulforce’s tour. At the Equality Ride’s fifth visit, six riders were arrested at Palm Beach Atlantic University and charged with trespassing for allegedly refusing to leave the school’s private property after being told to do so by police.

The original article is available on the Southern Voice website: