The Courier-Journal, "Gay-issues group visits area college"

Gay-issues group visits area college

Bus tour promotes inclusion, safety

Friday, November 14, 2008
By Chris Quay, The Courier-Journal

One by one, members of Equality Ride read aloud short descriptions of prominent African Americans displayed on the black-and-white pictures they held in front of Simmons College.

Taueret Manu, 21, of New York City, held pictures of writer Alice Walker and former civil-rights activist Bayard Rustin.

Rustin, a principal organizer of the 1963 march on Washington and adviser to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., was openly gay. "Not many people know that," Manu said.

Other pictures featured gay, lesbian and transgender African Americans who were victims of hate crimes.

The readings were part of Soulforce Q’s Equality Ride bus tour, a project of young people with alternative lifestyles who visit faith-based colleges to promote inclusion and safety.

As a black gay woman "I know firsthand homophobia, sexism and racism are all intertwined," Manu said. "In order to combat those things you have to hit it at the root, and that’s usually spiritual violence."

The roughly 20 young people in the Equality Ride group stood shoulder to shoulder along the sidewalk. At times they were silent and at other times they sang songs of unity.

The group also walked to St. Stephen Church to meet with individuals and students.

Simmons and St. Stephen were the last destinations on the group’s current tour, which made 16 stops, including visits to Spelman and Morehouse colleges in Atlanta, Palm Beach Atlantic University in Florida and Dallas Baptist University.

Jarrett Lucas, Equality Ride co-director, said the tour chooses schools based on e-mails and letters it receives from students. Lucas said they had previously spoken with a couple of students who attended Simmons and were made to feel that they "didn’t belong."

Manu and Lucas had a spirited discussion with the Rev. Kevin Cosby, Simmons’ president and the St. Stephen pastor, before the group’s sidewalk vigil. The Equality Ride representatives said they asked for permission to visit the school, but Cosby told them he never granted it.

"Equality Ride is about going to academic institutions because if we’re having intellectual and spiritual conversations about people’s lives and about matters of faith, why would we not come to a Christian college," Lucas said. "Dr. Cosby’s presumption about what the Equality Ride is and what we seek to do has led him to a place where he’s not interested in actually engaging us or listening to us."

Cosby told Lucas and Manu that he didn’t have issues with their choice of lifestyle. He said, however, that the issues they are promoting are less important than other concerns facing the African-American community.

"I have a problem when they attempt to define what the agenda is in poor African-American communities. It’s very paternal and arrogant," Cosby said.

"It does not reflect the myriad of problems the urban community is facing," he said. "I believe in equal opportunity and that gays and lesbians should not be discriminated against in any form. However, we’re not talking about the public square and society, we’re talking about the right local churches and private schools have to set policy."

Readers can reach reporter Chris Quay at (502) 582-4241.

The original article is available on the Courier-Journal website: