Equality Bus Visits University of North Florida
October 27, 2011 by Candace Gingrich, Associate Director, Youth and Campus Engagement Program
The University of North Florida won’t soon forget October 27, 2011. Absolutely many of them will remember it as the day that the HRC Road to Equality Bus came to campus, complete with free ice cream samples and free coffee. But we were not the only happening of the day – we shared the day on campus with the bloodmobile, a die-in by Students Against the War in the Sudan and MTV’s Campus Invasion Tour. It was a gorgeous Florida day and we had a great location just outside UNF’s two-year old state-of-the-art Student Union building – specifically, in Osprey Plaza (I did not see any ospreys, but there were a ton of turkey vultures, one black vulture and an egret). I had great conversations with students and faculty – when I explained that the bus tour stops were places where it wasn’t always easy to be out as LGBT or even an ally there were many understanding nods in agreement.
We were fortunate to share tent space with the UNF LGBT Resource Center – one of only two LGBT campus centers in the entire state of Forida. The Center had been instrumental in getting us on campus as well as securing the free caffeine and sugar – thank you, Natalie! Another important community partner was present today as well – the Jacksonville Area Sexual Minority Youth Network. JASMYN has been a vital presence in the area since 1993 and provides critical support to queer youth ages 13-23. Today wasn’t totally about young people, though – we were awed by a married straight couple who drove 5 hours from Pensacola to visit the Equality Bus and renew their membership to HRC. If we do this bus tour again and return to Florida we’ll have to make Pensacola a stop!
One thing we learned today was that it isn’t just the University of Central Florida where skateboarders are prevalent – not a moment went by today at UNF without hearing the sound of ball-bearings rolling across the plaza. Now I have to wonder if it is a Florida thing? Or just a UNF/UCF thing? Regardless, I like it! But where are the hacky-sack players?
The bus open houses that we’ve been having on campuses across the Midwest and South have been a refreshing reminder of how genuinely supportive Generation EQ is of LGBT equality. I am hopeful that through the bus tour we were able to provide opportunities for students who support equality to equip themselves with the knowledge and confidence to become equality advocates. Today was the final campus stop on the Road to Equality bus tour – it has been an amazing journey full of amazing people and stories. There is no doubt that the current generation of college students will see full equality in their lifetimes and I was fortunate to meet hundreds of them on the tour who are taking an active part in obtaining that equality. I look forward to continuing this work with you, GenEQ!
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