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Friday, December 3, 2010

Report From The Heartland: The National Equality March Impact

By David Mixner -

National equality march 09    The National Equality March on Washington was over a year ago. As many of you remember it was hotly debated if it was even needed. Up to the last day, many urged that the march be canceled. At the beginning, some folks said it would cost over two million dollars and be doomed to failure. Well, the march came and over 200,000 marched down Pennsylvania Ave NW. The entire event from start to finish was just under $160,000 which is less than the overhead of some LGBT formal dinners.
   Rightfully, many then questioned what good would come out of it. The answer is quite clear. We have seen a new generation of activists like GetEQUAL and so many others that responded to the cause of a new way. Often I encounter young people who speak emotionally about how the march change their lives and got them involved.
   This week I received an email from a young activist, Dusty Garner, from Kansas State University and it blew me away. He wanted to share with my readers how the march stimulated action when they returned to Kansas. I will let him speak for himself.

   I have long identified as an LGBT activist, and living in Kansas sometimes makes that a difficult title to hold. In an agricultural university, it is very easy to get caught up as the poster boy for all progressive causes, especially when you are one of the only openly HIV+ people on campus. I have spent my last 4 years on the campus of Kansas State University committed to making my presence make a difference. I happen to be a non-traditional student (34 years old), I spent the 10 years before coming back to Kansas traveling and living around the world, so I have the luxury and privilege of seeing something different. Most of our students don't have that luxury. They are from small farm towns, and most of our students return to those town. For many, their college experience is one of very few involving diverse people. I wanted to create an opportunity for young LGBT and allied students that let them see something different. I worked for months to raise the money to transport and house 6 freshmen students to Washington DC for the March on Washington and helped them raise the funds for another 6 to attend as well. All in all, sending 12 students (not counting myself) to the March on Washington.
   I wanted you to know what these young people brought home from Washington last year, and what kind of change has been happening in this small town in conservative Kansas. Since returning from Washington, the following has happened:

1. LGBT Resource Center - We wrote a grant to fund a graduate student to run an LGBT resource center. We were awarded that grant. Today, Kansas State University has a resource center for LGBT students and community members that provides amazing advocacy and services throughout campus and the community.
2.  LGBT Library - Working with the new LGBT Resource Center, I donated a collection of 200 books by LGBT authors with a commitment of an additional 2 titles a month for 5 years. In addition to that, we have secured more book donations from alumni, to insure our students never lose their connection to the LGBT community culture and history.
3.  LGBT Art Collection - Housed in the LGBT Resource Center, is the campus' first permanent collection of art by LGBT artists
4.  Non-Discrimination Ordinance - This month, the Manhattan City Commission will be voting on amending the city non-discrimination ordinance to include sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. We have the votes, and in spite of a very nasty campaign by the religious right, we expect it to pass.
5.  The largest pro-LGBT rights demonstration in campus history - tonight, students have organized a rally expecting to bring over 1,000 people together to protest the campus student union's decision to rent space to an anti-gay hate group, in spite of policies against it. 

   Students are taking a stand, and they are motivating their friends and family to take a stand with them. All of this is because they attended the March on Washington. The march helped these students realize that they have the ability to put pressure on more than just the grass, but rather to create meaningful change.

for more from David visit Live from Hell's Kitchen.

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