by Jarrett Lucas, Soulforce Equality Ride Co-director
The Ride has 21 days to go. If you want to help GLBT justice group Soulforce in its nonviolent peace mission, please do so now. – nd
The last five days have been quite busy! The weekend began at Heritage Christian University. Located in Florence, Alabama, the school offers degrees in Biblical Studies and trains young evangelicals for missionary work. It goes without saying that the prospect of engaging students was very exciting.
Soon after we arrived, a representative came out and told us that since they had declined our offer for dialogue, we were “unwanted guests.” In response, we stood before the university in silent vigil, embodying the absence of affirming voices on campus. Inside, however, things were not so still. One supportive student described the atmosphere as a state of “homophobic panic.” Eventually, that tension culminated in the arrest of three Equality Riders. As Katie Higgins, Caitlin MacIntyre, and Taueret Manu carried letters to the president, they were stopped by police and provided a trespass warning. Refusing to leave, the young women were summarily handcuffed and taken away. Their letters, which chronicled their unique journeys into activism, were taken by an officer and delivered to an administrator, affirming the sometimes unpredictable value of civil disobedience.
Two days later, we traveled to Clinton, Mississippi, a community that is no stranger to the Equality Ride. You may remember our visit to its beloved Mississippi College last year, which ended with us being run out of town by local police.
On Sunday night we returned, holding a candlelight vigil in front of the school with students, alumni, our friends from a nearby church, and two PFLAG parents who had driven all the way from Birmingham, Alabama. Some of our candles were lit to simply shine in the darkness, while others represented the resilience of our spirits. My candle was lit as a sign of hope for Mississippi College, hope that they, like a dancing flame, would rise to the occasion. Sadly, they chose to shut us out.
The next day, two Equality Riders walked onto campus hand in hand with two students, their eyes set on a statue of a welcoming Jesus. But, Riders Caitlin MacIntyre and Alex Lundy, both straight allies, were stopped in their path. The school chose to have them arrested while hundreds of people watched. Everyone present witnessed just how far Mississippi College would go to suppress a message of inclusion. Likewise, onlookers got to see how determined we were as faithful messengers.
As we venture to Louisiana, we leave behind Caitlin and Alex. Although released, they must remain in Clinton for their arraignment and trial. Staying for ground support is my partner in leadership, Katie Higgins, who had a similar experience last year after being arrested at Mississippi College. Thankfully, they are all in good hands, backed by generous residents who believe in this project. And, we expect to reunite with them in Texas this Friday, just in time for our stop at Dallas Baptist University, where we await a much more hospitable reception.
Please, continue to follow our progress and keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we move into the second month of the 2008 Equality Ride.