Equality Ride Bus Rolls to a Stop, But Change Keeps Coming

Third Annual Tour of Christian Colleges Empowers LGBT Students
$25,000 Still Needed

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SOULFORCE MEDIA ADVISORY: November 20, 2008
For Immediate Release

Contact: Paige Schilt, 
Media Director
Cell: 512-659-1771
paige@soulforce.org

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(Laurel, MD) The third annual Soulforce Q Equality Ride is coming to a close this week with a de-briefing in Laurel, Maryland. For the past six weeks, these extraordinary lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT), and straight young adults have brought their message of inclusion and safety to 15 faith-based schools throughout the South.

Although the bus tour has ended, the work of fostering safe learning environments for LGBT students is just beginning. Students and faculty, empowered by the Equality Ride, will now take on the work of organizing gay/straight alliances and safe spaces for LGBT students. Some will advocate for the re-examination of antigay policies that are inconsistent with Christian principles. The Equality Riders will stay in touch and provide on-going guidance and support.

Since 2006, the Equality Ride has visited 65 schools, hosting public forums, participating in panel discussions, and taking part in worship services and Bible studies. Often, the Equality Riders are the first LGBT-affirming voices to be heard on campuses with official policies that discriminate against gay and transgender students.

The impact of the Equality Ride on individual lives is immeasurable, but there are some measurable indicators of the Ride’s success. Since the project’s inception, Riders have contributed to:

  • 17 new or revived gay/straight alliances
  • 6 new faculty-led safe spaces
  • 2 positive policy changes (at Samford University and Brigham Young University)

Highlights and Lowpoints of the Third Annual Equality Ride

September 23, 2008: The Soulforce issues an emergency appeal for donations to get the bus on the road despite difficult economic times.

October 1, 2008: Liberty University, founded by Rev. Jerry Falwell, opens the campus for free discussions between Equality Riders and Liberty students.

October 10-11, 2008: Students and administrators at Morehouse College and Spelman College collaborate with Equality Riders to create 2-days of LGBT-affirming programming. These successful events mark the Equality Ride’s first visits to historically black colleges.

October 12, 2008: The Equality Ride bus is vandalized in West Palm Beach, Florida. Bus driver Dondi Penn, a straight ally, is targeted with homophobic slurs.

October 24, 2008: The Equality Ride and Dallas Baptist University hold a joint press conference before an unprecedented day of discussions with faculty, administrators, and students about safety for LGBT students.

November 11, 2008: Equality Riders are physically barred from a public concert at First Baptist Church in Jackson, Tennessee.

November 14, 2008: The Equality Ride bus rolls to a stop in Laurel, Maryland for a week of debriefing and follow-up with schools from the route. Although the official part of the Ride is over, the Riders must still raise $25,000 to cover the bills for this important work.

"This year, and every year, the Equality Ride’s greatest impact is in the one-on-one connections we make, both on and off the bus," said Jarrett Lucas, Equality Ride Co-director. "Building those relationships pushes us to challenge misinformation about our differences and question prejudices. Then we leave the Ride and manifest those lessons in our everyday lives. That empowerment is the heartbeat of social justice. That empowerment is our success."

To interview an Equality Rider from your city or state about the experience of the 2008 Ride, contact Paige Schilt, Soulforce Media Director, or visit our "Meet the Riders" page: https://soulforceactionarchives.org/2008riders

Soulforce Q is the young adult division of Soulforce, a social justice organization that works to end political and religious oppression of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people through relentless nonviolent resistance. For more information, go to www.equalityride.com.

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