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Equality rides again

Chris Azzopardi

Fifty young adults. Two buses. One idea. The activists hopping on Soul Force's Equality Ride, which sets sail for its second year on March 1, will speak loud and proud across the United States on gay-rights issues, combating the notion that LGBT identities are sick and sinful. And three of them are Michigan natives.

{ITAL Brandon Kneefel
20 years old
Livonia}

On the decision to ride

I met the co-director from last year (Haven Herrin) and one of the co-directors for the bus this year. Every night I saw (Herrin), she's like, "So you're gonna sign up?" 'Cause I really want you to sign up." At first I was like, "No, no, no. That's not for me." The more she started asking me I thought, I'll check out the Web site when I get home. I got back home and I was watching the promo on the Web site for Equality U and I watched a promo of when they went to BYC (Brigham Young University) and I'm like, I can't pass this up; I have to do it.

On worries about participating

I know we're going to reach somebody, and I'm not too concerned about getting arrested. If it calls for civil disobedience, I'm going to be all for it. I was just more concerned about financially being able to get away for two months. (I'm) a full-time student and I was disowned at 16 (by my parents), so it's not like I'm depending on my family to support me while I'm doing it. So it was something I had to really think about and I'm like: Will I be able to pull it off? I had to really get organized and start thinking strategically to make it happen. But it's happening.

On what he'll convey to the youth

I just want the youth, especially at these universities, to know that there's people out there who know and trust that God affirms and loves them no matter what. So we just want them to realize that they don't have to torture themselves. They don't have to live in pain and fear and shame. They are accepted and … affirmed no matter what by God.

{ITAL Rachel Loskill
21 years old
East Lansing}

On the decision to ride

I started off going to a college at a small Methodist school. While I was there I came out and I really (started to) receive my first type of discrimination as far as being out as a queer woman. It was the (anti-gay) comments from the students and also the mentality and the actions of the administration while I was there. For me this ride is extremely important and inspiring.

On worries about participating

I'm not worried. The arrests are part of our non-violence and our mentality about going to these schools. My goal is to go and talk to students and to create dialogue and to give the presentations that we've been working on. And to really put a face to the LGBT community and hopefully just create really great discussions with the students who are so affected by the policies at the schools.

On what he'll convey to the youth

I want to tell them that there (are) people that are around who are supportive. I basically want to tell them: "I support (you). I'm here. I understand. You're not alone."
Stayed tuned for Rachel Loskill's journal entries from the road as she updates Between The Lines on her journey.

{ITAL Shawn O'Neil
22 years old
Marquette}

On the decision to ride

The Equality Ride is coming at a time in my life where I just graduated college and I'm out in the real world and this might be my only opportunity to completely give myself and go and fight for something that I know is a good cause. We're going out to these schools (and) we're actually going out to these people, and going, "Hey, I'm human."

On worries about participating

I'm not particularly worried about arrests. I know that if we do get arrested we're getting arrested for a good cause. As a transgender person I have the anxieties that most transgender people have in public spaces but I'm surrounded by 26 of my best friends.

On what he'll convey to youth

That we're humans. We have the same goals and aspirations and desires of what we want to get out of life that they do. And if one person … walks away with that idea, I think that's a success.

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