Sunday, April 30, 2006

Reflectig on the Past, Looking to the Future

Bascom Hill Display

Bascom Hill Display.

As the semester is coming to an end, I've been taking the time to look back and see all that we have accomplished this past semester. I had been worried at the beginning that Students for Equality would end up being one of those 5-minute-hits: bringing a big burst of energy at first, then dwindling into nothing. I was pleased to find that our dedication and determination were stronger than the urge to just do what was "easy." Our coalition of student organizations and staff/faculty divisions is growing weekly, the amount of people we have educated about the negative effects of the ban expands every day, and our membership is getting larger and more dedicated with each event and activity we complete.

The recent Day of Silence gave me the chance to realize other benefits of what we experiencing here on campus. Working closely with the UW-Allies and QPOC when trying to get the rally going has given me friends and contacts that I know I'll be able to maintain for the rest of my college career. I've also gained the confidence I'll need to make an impact on whatever issue I decide to fight for while I'm living on the banks of Mendota.

What's more is that other members of our group seem to be making similar connections and skills while they work with us. Watching prospective Students for Equality members who didn't know much or anything about the proposed ban on civil unions and marriage, I always thought they seemed a little timid and shy at first. Already, I've been amazed with the skills and knowledge they've gained through attending our info sessions, speakers trainings, and campus-wide events. Just recently when Students for Equality was at the Sellery Cup-O'-Controversy, curious residents would ask questions about the ban, and newer members were fielding the questions like they had been doing it for years.

Students for Equality Members

Students for Equality members at the Day of Silence.

We've had a great start, and we're teaching campus, and ourselves, what it needs to know to make an educated decision come November. Although this progress is motivating, we're nowhere near done. It's our job to not only let people know why the ban will hurt them, but also that they have the opportunity to fight for what's right and demand the same chance to get a first-rate education that could be lost should the amendment pass.

As we move into finals, think about what you can do for equality over the summer. It can be as simple as starting a conversation about the ban or volunteering - perhaps canvassing or making phone calls or attending events - for Students for Equality or Fair Wisconsin. Keep reading our blog to see what's going on, and check our events page and the Fair Wisconsin events calendar frequently to find out ways you can get involved!

The Day of Silence Rally.

Modifying the old saying: Now isn't the time to get mad, now is the time to make things even.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Breaking the Silence

Yesterday, you may have noticed that the bright, outspoken student in your class was strangely silent. You may have bumped into somebody, only to have them put their head down and hurry away. Or, you may have passed a friend on the street and received only a slight nod, instead of the usual, cordial ‘hello.’ Why all the odd behavior? you may have asked yourself.

Yesterday marked the tenth annual National Day of Silence. Nationwide, a half million middle school, high school and college students took a vow of silence to protest the silence imposed upon gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals and their allies. Their intentional silence echoed the silence caused by harassment, prejudice, and discrimination toward these individuals. “Think about the voices you’re not hearing today,” was their resounding message.

In Madison, the day concluded with a rally at the State Capitol. In the late afternoon, a crowd of LGBT students and their allies gathered at Library Mall, and they marched together, in silence, down State Street toward the Capitol:

State Street March

Students marching down State Street.

Arriving at Capitol

Arriving at the Capitol.

The rally called on students to break the silence – to speak out and make their voices heard on LGBT issues, particularly in Wisconsin, with the upcoming vote to ban marriage and civil unions for same-sex couples. For some time, Students for Equality has been organizing on campus to educate students, faculty and staff on the proposal, while fostering a campus community that is inclusive and free of discrimination. This blog is our way of breaking the silence, of making sure that our voices are heard.

In the upcoming days, weeks and months, we hope to use this blog to report on the activities of our group, to spread our message, and to provide a forum where the voices of LGBT individuals and their allies can be heard. Please pardon our dust as we get things off the ground, and check back often for updates!