On The Eve of Audible Silence

The list of participating high school and universities grows every week. Organiz-ers from hundreds of schools across the country are working fervently to confirm speakers, information tables, and support spaces to carry out the Day of Silence on April 7, 1999.

Youth organizing the Day of Silence will create a visible, "audible" silence to protest the oppression forced upon lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. Instead of speaking, participants will wear stickers and pass out cards call-ing for an end to the silence of LGBT people. Organizers will also offer educational tools and dialogue devoted to ending the silence by organizing post-event forums and breaks. Participation in the event has grown exponentially from a single campus in 1996 into an international effort in 1999.

Every school will carry out the Day of Silence in a unique way. At the University of Iowa, organizers have scheduled a shout-out in downtown Iowa City, where stu-dents will shout, bang pans, ring bells, and do whatever they can to make noise for an entire minute. The shout out will be followed by an open-mic session where people will be express to talk about their thoughts and experiences.

According to Kit Murray, President of the University of Iowa Feminist Union, activities such as these will "give people the opportunity to continue to fight homo-phobia in their everyday lives and to have the resources available for people to educate themselves and others."

In Tulsa, OK, the events surrounding and supporting the Day of Silence span not a single day, but a week. High school organizers in the area are organizing around the theme "unity through diversity," holding panels on queers of color and bipho-bia. Tulsa organizer Emily Sisemore, a junior in high school and national high school coordinator of the Project, also plans to hold follow-up sessions to seriously address rifts in the LGBT community. Sisemore hopes the session will discuss "what can be done within our community to increase awareness and break down prejudice."

The Day of Silence has garnered the endorsements of national organizations such as Advocates for Youth, Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, Youth Guardian Services, And Justice for All, COLAGE, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Mel White, Founder of Soulforce, Inc., Student Environmental Action Coalition, and the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitian Community Churches. Local organizations endorsing and participating include Boston Alliance of Gay and Lesbian Youth, the Bay Area Gay Straight Alliance Network, Queer and Active, and the SAFETeen Project.

If you or your school are interested in participating or learning more about the Project, please contact Jessie Gilliam, Co-Chair, at jmg8r@virginia.edu or Chloe Palenchar, Co-Chair, at cpalenchar@hotmail.com. Also, please refer to our home-page at http://www.youth-guard.org/dayofsilence for information on organizing the Project and a complete list of participating schools.

Day of Silence Project is a non-profit, youth-run organization that helps high schools and colleges in the United States and Canada to organize a Day of Silence at their school. Day of Silence Project aims to recognize and combat the silencing of the GLBT community throughout history and today. 

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