Morehouse and Spelman to Host Equality Ride

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: October 3, 2008
For Immediate Release

Contact: Caitlin MacIntyre, 
Equality Ride Media Director
Cell: 612-715-6138 Email: caitlin@equalityride.com
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(Atlanta, GA) Morehouse College and Spelman College are preparing to welcome the 2008 Equality Ride, a youth-organized bus tour to faith-based colleges, on October 9 and 10. Students and administrators at both schools will meet with the young adult Equality Riders to talk about fostering a campus culture that celebrates and affirms lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students.

"We acknowledge the strides Morehouse and Spelman have taken to ensure that gay students are safe, and we hope to continue that work by creating spaces where gay and transgender students feel valued and welcome," says Jarrett Lucas, Equality Ride Co-director.

"Morehouse and Spelman are leaders in the historically black college community, and we believe our collaboration with them will inspire other schools to take an active role in supporting their LGBT students," Lucas continued.

Since 2006, the Equality Ride has visited 50 colleges with policies that silence or discriminate against LGBT students. In contrast to those schools, Spelman College includes sexual orientation in its official non-discrimination policy, and Morehouse students organized a week of anti-homophobia events last spring. In spite of those strides, students at the schools reached out to the Equality Ride.

Keara Watkins is the Vice President of Afrekete, Spelman’s LGBT student group, and a recipient of a Point Foundation scholarship. Watkins first learned about the Equality Ride when she met fellow Point Scholar Brandon Kneefel, who participated in the 2007 Equality Ride.

"I want the Equality Ride to come to Spelman because the social climate needs to change, and I think the visit will encourage that change," said Watkins. "Our student body is not completely represented or protected because of a lack of awareness about and solidarity with LGBT students."

Danielle Cooper, one of the 2008 Equality Riders and organizer of the Morehouse and Spelman visits, can relate. Cooper initially attended Howard University, a historically black college in Washington, DC. "The euphoric feeling of being a part of something great disappeared as I began to better understand the social rules that guided the campus," says Cooper, who identifies as a lesbian. "Although there are no discriminatory policies, it was commonly understood that LGBT people could be treated differently, looked over, and forced into rigid stereotypes."

Michael Brewer, Vice President of SafeSpace, an LGBT student group at Morehouse College, points to representation and visibility as keys to transforming the campus climate: "We have done a lot of work, not only to make this institution comfortable for gay and queer students, but also to cement our collective life experience in the canon of black culture."

"It’s a beautiful thing when others from across the nation can come and help us champion that vision through the noble principles of faith and nonviolence, which were brought together by our distinguished Morehouse brother, Dr. Martin Luther King, and remain at the heart of black America’s liberation ethos," says Brewer of the Equality Ride visit.

For the visits to Morehouse and Spelman, Cooper and other Equality Riders are collaborating with Student Affairs officers to plan campus conversations about affirming LGBT students and celebrating sexual and gender diversity in African American history.

On Thursday, October 9, Jasmine’s Cafe on the Morehouse College campus will host an open-mic poetry reading featuring the stories of LGBT students. Spelman College students and members of the Atlanta community are welcome to attend.

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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