Right to Serve makes number 5, out of 10

The Soulforce Right to Serve Campaign (past posts), which had its own action here in Greensboro, NC, has made the number 5 slot on SLDN’s year-end countdown of the Top-10 “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” stories of 2006:

Photo caption: Supporters from local universities and schools staged a sit-in as Kamal Rashad Davis, Curt Peterson and Rhonda Davis attempted to enlist last Wednesday at the U.S. Armed Forces Recruiting Station in Times Square. Photo: Eva Grenier/Pete Whinn. (The New York Blade)

For getting young people organized and visible, illustrating the wastefulness and heartlessness of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” a big gold star and the #5 slot in our countdown go to the Right to Serve campaign.

Lynchburg, VA-based Soulforce seeks to achieve freedom from oppression for LGBT people via relentless nonviolent resistance. Their youth-focused programming kicked into high gear this year with Right to Serve, a coordinated effort of openly queer youth with military aspirations to demand repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

This fall, two of my friends from college (UVA — go Wahoos!) went into the Armed Forces Recruiting Center in Charlottesville, VA to enlist. They each made their queer identity clear when they spoke with the recruiter, and they were summarily denied a place in a military hurting for capable recruits. I know both of these folks well enough that I’m sure they would have gone to fight for our country had they been allowed. Soulforce organizers ensure that all Right to Serve participants share their sincerity in enlisting.

Stories like this played out in a total of 30 cities this summer and fall, thanks to Soulforce’s thoughtful grassroots organizing. At the Task Force’s Creating Change conference I met two young women who were proud to tell me that they attempted to join the Navy this fall and were arrested for peaceful protest following the recruiter’s denial of their applications.

Participation in the Right to Serve campaign has given young activists like these a strategic outlet for their sense of duty to their communities and to America. How can our Armed Forces continue to deny these talented, earnest young people the opportunities and responsibilities of military service, especially in a time of war?

America’s young people deserve better than “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The Right to Serve campaign this year gave young people a coordinated, amplified voice with which to distribute this message far and wide.

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