|Tuan N’Gai, founder of Silence Equals Consent, |
organized a rally in Lithonia, Ga., on Saturday,
Nov. 13, that sought to draw attention to sexual
abuse and homophobia within the black church.
"This problem knows no boundaries, all of us together will have to stand up and be vocal," Tuan author and civil rights activist Tuan N’Gai, founder of Silence Equals Consent, told the group.
In addition to taking a stand against sex abuse in the black church, event organizers held the rally to honor the lives of gay and lesbian youth who have committed suicide after being bullied as a result of homophobia.
N’Gai chose Lithonia as the site of the rally to show support for the four young men who have spoken out about the alleged sexual abuse they said they endured by New Birth Missionary Baptist Church Bishop Eddie Long.
The mega church is also located in Lithonia. The bishop, who opposes marriage for gays and lesbians, has strongly denied the teenager’s claims.
Moved to action, N’Gai said he was told such an event would never take place. He said he was told DeKalb County does not allow prayer vigils to be held in their parks. N’Gai was allowed, however, to hold the event at the Willie A. Watkins Special Event Center on Redan Road in the Atlanta suburb.
N’Gai encouraged those in attendance to keep the momentum of the rally going by organizing panel discussions every 60 to 90 days to continue to discuss ways to end sexual abuse; make YouTube videos with positive messages, speaking out or in memoriam of people who have lost loved ones; make "Silence Equals Consent" or another mantra as signature on emails, tweets, text messages or other electronic forms of communication or on social networks; volunteer with churches or other community organizations that are dedicated to healing the community and to become active and become a part of the political process in their communities by exercising their right to vote.
With the recent LGBT teen suicides, N’Gai felt it was important to hold the rally and to continue to hold future events, "to let those who are afraid to speak out know that it is not your fault."
"There are people who are unafraid and there are people who are willing to stand and support you," added N’Gai
To take action does not take much, N’Gai urged. "You are equipped with life’s most powerful weapon against the abuse - "that weapon is your voice," he said. " Your creative voice can give others the courage to stand up... Your voice is your God-given weapon."
Members of the clergy, civil rights leaders and social justice activists from across the country spoke and led a prayer all in an effort to move the churches to take action against abuse
Spoken Word artist and Atlanta resident S. Velvet Noose performed his poem "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" about a boy who endured abuse by a youth minister, suicide attempts and his family’s taunts because of his lack of masculinity.
Noose felt it was important to take part in the rally because, "my story is these kids story."
"All these kids committing suicide because of bullying, I’ve tried it," he said of own suicide attempts.
While some on the panel spoke of the abuses that take place in the church, Samuel Heath, a minister with Unity Fellowship Church in Atlanta, spoke of having a good upbringing in the church. "There is some good in church and there is some bad in church," he said. "But, the church is not the building. The church is each and every one of us sitting in this building."
And Heath too encouraged people to make a vow to break the silence.
Pleased with the 20 something people in attendance, N’Gai said he was surprised so many people came out to pledge to be a part of the coalition.
And although he was hoping to have more support from affirming churches, he said there are already plans in the making to return to Georgia for another rally in the future. The next vigil will be held in Florida.
"We want to keep the momentum going, and we want to get more young people involved," added N’Gai. "We hope to inspire the young people."