Youth Activists Look to the Future
SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: August 1, 2007
For Immediate Release
Contact: Haven Herrin, Soulforce Q Co-Director
(New York, NY) — On Friday, July 28, the young adults of Soulforce Q completed their Right to Marry campaign, a two-week tour to connect with New Yorkers and their legislators on the issue of marriage equality.
The tour, which criss-crossed the state on four separate routes, ended with a debriefing in New York City, where the youth recalled the many fair-minded citizens and legislators who were impacted by personal conversations with the young equality advocates.
"We have learned how to temper the natural assets of youth–earnestness, idealism, and personal witness–with the data and political astuteness that makes this conversation effective with lawmakers," said Haven Herrin, one of the campaign co-directors.
The youth were joined at the debriefing by Evan Wolfson, Executive Director of the Freedom to Marry coalition, who listened and asked questions about their experiences speaking with the people of New York state.
"The energy and tenacity of Soulforce’s Right to Marry Riders are wonderful, and a true inspiration," said Wolfson. "I am grateful for the way these young people are reaching people heart to heart, helping them push past their discomfort and rise to fairness, through conversational engagement with people where they live."
For the thirty-two young people who set out to have conversations across the state, one of the highlights was visiting legislators’ offices side by side with Madeline Davis, founder of the Buffalo Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Archives and, in 1972, the first out lesbian to serve as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention.
The Right to Marry campaign utilized a variety of creative methods to communicate the moral necessity of marriage equality. On a visit to the office of Senator Andrea Stuart-Cousins, the young adults brought the senator a cupcake to represent civil unions and an entire wedding cake to represent the 1,342 rights and responsibilities associated with civil marriage in New York State. Stuart-Cousins surprised the visitors by indicating that she had decided to become an official co-sponsor of the marriage equality bill in the state Senate.
However, in their quest to speak with citizens and decision makers, the young adults were not universally welcomed. When Senator Ruben Diaz refused to schedule a meeting or to allow his staff to discuss marriage equality, Right to Marry participants used a sit-in in his Bronx office as a means to extend peaceful civic discourse.
The campaign also included meetings with religious communities, including an hour-long forum at Long Island Community Fellowship church, where participants examined the role of the church in social justice movements and the role of young adults in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender civil rights movement.
"The opportunity to spend the past several days with the Soulforce’s Right to Marry Team was eye opening," said Pastor Shane Hibbs. "It is an experience which calls all religious persons from a faith of words to a faith in action. It challenges a complacent nature which is satisfied with the sameness of yesterday to a vibrant vigor hope of tomorrow."
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.