A first-person experience blog By Josh Watson
Activist. The word alone is daunting to me. When I hear it I am bombarded with mental imagery of the civil rights movement, of Dr. Martin Luther King, of the Vietnam War, and Stonewall. I can hardly relate to these events on a personal level. My generation has so far been spared a major emotional and polarizing event. Lets face it, we are all too complacent and many are willing to lay low and let others make the decisions that guide our lives.
This weekend I experienced my first real bit of activism. As many of you know gay marriage and equal rights are in the national spotlight right now (thanks largely to President Obama, kudos to him!). Well, a few weeks ago the Apostolic Truth Tabernacle of Greensburg Indiana posted a video. The video, about 30 seconds in length, starts out innocent enough. It is a 4-year-old boy singing a song in front of his congregation. Near the end of the video the little boy says, "ain't no homos gonna make it to heaven", and the church erupts with cheers and clapping.
The reaction of these people stunned and hurt me. Then I was angry. Angry that this innocent child had been taught a message that certain people are not going to heaven because of who they love, and that he was taught this by an organization who heralds their, "acceptance of people regardless of their background and place on the spiritual path".
Like most people I posted something to my wall, and that was going to be the end of that. Then I received an invite from a friend, to an event that he created. The event was a protest to occur in two weeks, the day after pride. "I figured there isn't much of a better way to show your pride for our LGBT community than to attend and support us in this nonviolent, civil, humane way," he said on the wall of the event.
I couldn't have said it better. So I clicked join, and sent invites to all of my friends in the Indianapolis area. I sat and watched in amazement as the number of attendees and invited parties grew. The day of the protest over 4,000 people had been invited, with a couple hundred scheduled to show up.
When I arrived in Greensburg I saw a quaint little church with an empty parking lot. I saw a small contingency of people standing outside with signs that I couldn't quite read, and I looked for a place to park in the neighborhood surrounding it. I called a friend who was already there to make sure that I wasn't walking into the wrong side, because the town's police informed us that we were going to have to be across the street from the church.
It turns out this was my group, about 30-40 people strong at this point. I walked up and was welcomed by hugs and handshakes, but I was still distracted by that fact that it was now 9 a.m. and the church parking lot sat empty. So I asked my friend who rode down with the rally's coordinator Daniel, what's up with this. He chuckled and said, "they cancelled service." I couldn't help but laugh. The same people who just days previous had stood and celebrated their bigotry, had put their tails between their legs and ran home. They clearly knew that they were in the wrong.
Time went on and our numbers began to swell, eventually reaching well over 130 people the last time I could count. There were leaders there from several communities around the state. We had representation from ICON, Indiana Equity, and Pride Lafayette (the states only LGBT community center.) There were people there from Missouri, Ohio, and probably more places that I didn't catch. I think probably the most amazing thing was seeing families with young children come out. These kids are being raised in an open and supportive environment where love, not hate, is what is preached and practiced. This next generation is learning at an early age what I am learning at 23, everyone has a voice.
We had only one incident. A man with a sign that said, "thank god 4 burned down churches," showed up. He walked into our group, and honestly I thought he was someone from the opposition who came over to make us look unscrupulous. Daniel asked him to put down the sign; he refused. So the police asked him to move, he refused; then he proceeded to verbally threaten Daniel, and the police asked him to move or go to jail. He did finally move across the street, where he continued to taunt the one person on the opposition, by himself.
The rest of event went well. The police were courteous, and we had several people honk and wave while driving by. We started this event with a purpose, spread love, not hate. The purpose of this event was to inspire hope in those who have yet to come out. To let the boy, girl, man, or woman, sitting in that church, or living down the street, that they are loved. The purpose of this event was to let them know that they are not alone, that they are part of an amazing community of diverse people, and that they are not an abomination. I think we were very successful in doing this. If nothing else I learned that it's scary to stand up and speak out, but when your cause is right, others will stand up and speak out with you.