Don’t miss out on this wonderful event…

The American Hebrew Academy is proud to present The Laramie Project on May 2nd and 3rd at 7:30 pm at Temple Emanuel (Jefferson Road).  The Laramie Project, by Moises Kaufman and the Tectonic Theatre Company, centers on the hate-crime murder of Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old gay man in Laramie, Wyoming.  Kaufman and members of his theatre company traveled to Laramie several times during the year following the murder, collecting interviews from over 200 people.  The result is a moving theatrical montage of voices from the community, one that can help us all examine our own feelings, not only towards the gay community, but towards all we call “other.”

The Academy is happy to have as sponsors: The Greensboro Jewish Federation, Temple Emanuel, Beth David Synagogue, NCCJ, and GSAFE.  Contributors: Replacements, Ltd. and Judith Abraham.

Tickets may be purchased at the door.    High school students free;  $5/seniors (65+)/students; $10/adults

For more information and to reserve a seat, email: kdresser@aha-net.org or ROBESKDresser@aol.com

More info: American Hebrew Academy

Just today, I “met” (as in, talked to him online) Zach of The Gayly News. Zach had some pretty strong feelings on how he thought the Soulforce Equality Ride had been ignored by the blogosphere this year:

A lot of the Gay blogosphere has ignored or ,at the very least, forgotten about the Soulforce Equality Riders. Mainly because this year there are two buses heading in seperate directions and thats a lot of queers to keep up with, even for us.

Zach went on, however, to make some good points and, I have to say, he “gets it;” as in, he gets the reason why we have done what we have during the past two months:

Because who doesn’t love a little arresting music? Seriously though, I’m sure the riders got asked this all the time, but, why? Why try to talk to people who probably don’t want to hear what you have to say? Well it turns out, not everyone is so homo-hatin:

Prior to arrest, the Equality Riders spent two-and-a-half hours in silent vigil outside the campus gates. Bethany Lutheran students stopped by to shake hands, thank the Riders for being there, and ask questions. “I support what you are doing 100%,” said one Bethany Lutheran senior. An MSU student reiterated that support and added that, coming from a school that welcomed him as a gay man, he felt that it was especially important to stand in solidarity with those who were not welcomed in the same way.

Following the arrest, as many as fifty Bethany Lutheran students joined the Riders for conversations lasting up to two hours.

I guess those conversations plant the seed in which real change can begin to grow. Maybe it’s easy for me to cringe at being arrested as I sit behind my keyboard and type away, but I really do admire these guys/gals/trans for making a stand on the turf of people who teach hate.

I have to thank Zach for his thoughts and his interest in the great undertaking of which I was a part during March and April.

I also have to, however, say thanks to so many people… including folks in the blogosphere. I haven’t really been under the impression that we were “ignored,” although I don’t doubt that this year’s Ride was much, much more difficult to keep up with because, as Zach pointed out, we did have two different routes and LOTS of activity going on all across the country at the same time.

Of the bloggers who I’ve run across keeping up with us this time were the good folks at PageOneQ.com and Pam Spaulding and her crew of Blenders at Pam’s House Blend.

A quick search on Technorati.com for our Soulforce blog (soulforce.org/blogs/), shows links from at least 40 blogs and a search for “Equality Ride” shows at least 1,200 different links. Thanks to all those in the blogosphere and elsewhere who kept up with our journeys, thought of us, kept us in your prayers and helped to keep awareness up while we were on the buses.

My many thanks would not be complete without thanking all those individuals everywhere who supported us financially. Obviously, this journey was an expensive one: Two buses traveling across the country (and the needed gas to fuel them up), the food to fuel our bodies, the hotels to give us rest and so, so much more.

A HUGE amount of thanks goes out to all those folks, friends and family who sponsored me individually:

  • Kelly Margolis and Jacob Dagger, Chapel Hill, NC
  • Sportin’ Life, Boston, MA
  • kevinbgoode, Carbondale, IL
  • Heidi & Alison, Austin, TX
  • Dick & Dick, Cathedral City, Ca
  • Alan down in Florida, Delray Beach, FL
  • Joshua D. Henson, Greensboro, North Carolina
  • Sam B., Chapel Hill, NC
  • Jerry Meek, Raleigh, NC
  • Pam, Durham, NC
  • Regan DuCasse, North Hollywood, CA
  • Cris Elkins, Greensboro, NC
  • Brandon Greeson, Hickory, NC
  • Gary Palmer, Greensboro, NC
  • Ricky Barnes, Seaboard, NC
  • Mike Stevens, Fredericksburg, virginia
  • Frank and Gary, Winston-Salem, NC
  • Charles Hornaday, Mebane, NC
  • Mark, Madison, WI
  • Ken B., Dobson, NC
  • Rick Hunter, Winston-Salem, NC
  • Steve McIntyre & Chuck Phelan, Los Angeles, CA
  • Rachel Powell, Shreveport, LA
  • Sheila Simpson, Albemarle, North Carolina
  • David & Sarah Catron, Winston-Salem, NC
  • Jeff Schoner, Seattle, WA
  • Cris Rivera, Durham, NC
  • Christopher Cannon, Greensboro, NC
  • J.T. Sands, Winston-Salem, NC
  • Cecelia M. Thompson, Greensboro, NC
  • J. Allen Broach, Greensboro, NC
  • Edwin Farthing, Raleigh, NC
  • Richard Smith, Kernersville, NC
  • Kathleen McGirty, Greensboro, NC
  • PFLAG Madison, Madison, WI
  • James White, Madison, WI
  • Ruth Finley, Lewisville, NC
  • Priscilla Wallace Fender, Winston-Salem, NC
  • Joe Tynan, Rockaway Park, NY
  • Alan K. Bruce, Washington, DC
  • Roger Sharpe, Harmony, NC
  • Greg & Bryan Doornbos-Ross, Caledonia, MI
  • Ryan Boshoven, Grand Rapids, MI
  • Janet Joyner, Winston-Salem, NC
  • Kevin Jennings, New York City, NY

Also… a huge thanks goes out to Roch and all the other folks at Greensboro101.com and the Greensboro blogosphere. Many of them kept up with my journeys across the country and Roch kept up with the journey all through March and April, linking various posts from the blog to Greensboro101.com.

I also want to thank all my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ all across the nation and world, but especially my church family at Wake Forest Baptist Church, Winston-Salem, NC, including the Reverend Dr. Richard Groves and the Reverend Susan Parker and Wendy Scott, as well as the members of the Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship of Winston-Salem, including the Reverend & Mrs. Charlie Davis.

I’d also like to thank those individuals who made possible our Eastbound stop at The University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, KY; the stop I was in charge of planning. Without these folks, the stop wouldn’t have happened: Jordan Palmer, Wes Wright and Jason Johnson.

There is absolutely no way for me to thank all those people who have helped me and supported me in this journey. For all those not named individually, I apologize, but please know that I thank you immensely for all the support, thoughts and prayers.

There is one more thanks, however, which cannot go ignored: Thank you to my family for all their love, concern, prayer and support as I cris-crossed the Eastern seaboard: Mom, Larry, Johnathon, Joshua, Adam, Thomas, Cara, Zachary, Grandpa, Memaw and all my aunts, uncles and cousins. I love you all SO, SO much!

I can’t wait to get back to the Triad and see all of you. Keep me in your thoughts as I wrap things up here in Minneapolis and board my plane for home on Tuesday!

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On Tuesday, May 1st – the same day I return from the Soulforce Equality Ride – I’ll be speaking with other local Greensboro leaders on the Law Day panel discussion being held at Elon University School of Law. Hope you’ll be able to make it out:

LIBERTY UNDER LAW: Empowering Youth, Assuring Democracy

Panel Discussion: May 1, 7-8:30 p.m.

Where: Elon University Law School
201 N. Greene St., Greensboro

Parking: Free Parking in the Bellemeade parking deck or on the street

Moderator: Steven Friedland,Esq., professor, Elon University Law School.

Panelists: Judge Susan Bray, Chuck Hodierne, Lewis Pitts, Esq., Matt Comer, Malcolm Kenton and YOU.

Sponsored by The League of Women Voters of the Piedmont Triad, the Greensboro Bar Association, Court Watch of North Carolina, the Department of Political Science and Criminal Justice, North Carolina A&T State University and funded, in part, by the League of Women Voters Education Fund and the Program on Constitutional and Legal Policy of the Open Society Institute.

It has been a few days since I have heard of any new news regarding Curtis Walsh, the gay Tennessee high school student suspended from school for organizing the Day of Silence. As far as I can tell, I have been one of VERY few LGBT activists, advocate or bloggers keeping track of this story and trying to connect Curtis and his mother Zina to folks who can help them out. I’m actually quite appalled at the lack of interest from the LGBT community and LGBT advocacy groups.

I found this editorial from April 20th in an AP Editorial Roundup at Forbes.com:

April 20

Johnson City (Tenn.) Press, on a protest called Day of Silence:

While it is said that silence is golden, the events on the campus of David Crockett High School in Jonesborough suggest otherwise.

An openly gay Crockett student was sent home by administrators there simply because he and other students had planned to participate in Day of Silence, a national event held on April 18 to bring attention to anti-lesbian, gay and bisexual bullying, harassment and discrimination in public schools.

If Curtis Walsh, a senior at the school who had organized the event, had wanted to show the true face of intolerance at his school, he certainly succeeded. Walsh, who admits to facing daily insults and threats about his homosexuality, was told to leave the school grounds for his own safety.

The incident is also a sad reflection on the bigotry and narrow-mindedness that still exists in some quarters of our society. Is this the message we really want to send to our children?

I’ve asked before… but if anybody has any news, be sure to let me know. The Johnson City Press, the paper where Curtis lives, hasn’t put much information about this situation online.

You can, however, check out scans of the article on Curtis’ situation here: Page 1, Page 2.

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New item added to the press page… just happened today.

‘Equality Ride’ Click to listen (MP3)
For two months, gay rights advocate and UNC-G student Matt Hill Comer has been traveling by bus to Christian campuses on the east coast as part of an effort to raise awareness about homophobia. Earlier this week, Matt was arrested for trespassing on the campus of Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He joins host Frank Stasio by phone to reflect on his travels as part of The Equality Ride.
“The State of Things”
WUNC/NC Public Radio, Chapel Hill, NC
April 27, 2007, Frank Stasio hosts (original story).

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Nine hours to Minneapolis

We have nine hour drive today to Minneapolis. The Equality Ride is almost complete.

One more stop… Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato, MN, on Thursday. They aren’t letting us on campus.

After Mankato… we have our debriefing in Minneapolis, then I fly home on May 1st.

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A true Christian welcome: Calvin College

In what I think must be our most absolute best and most welcoming stop on the Equality Ride, I must say that I am so happy to have had the experiences I did today on the campus of Calvin College, especially after Monday’s experience (i.e. my arrest) at Cornerstone University.

I had so many great discussions and conversations with students at Calvin and I am so grateful to the college administration and the student body for truly opening their hearts and minds to hear our stories and our experiences.

Cornerstone University truly did miss out on an awesome opportunity.

While, of course, there will always be disagreement over the Bible and theology (yeah, what else is new with Christians?), folks at Calvin were more willing, I think, than folks at other schools to say, “Well, let us put those aside… because we both know we believe and trust in Christ.”

Over and over, I stressed the importance of St. Paul’s teaching: It is better to be united under the headship of Christ than for Christians to argue over the law and be divided… for as Christ taught, a house divided against itself cannot stand. This doesn’t mean that we must agree on every theological issue (because we know that we may not agree on many issues), but that we truly seek to live as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Of course, there are many disagreements among Christians. There always has been and there always will be. The existence of hundreds, if not thousands, of denominations and theological/ideological divisions in the Body of Christ should be evidence enough of the tense sibling rivalry us brothers and sisters in Christ share with each other.

Folks at Calvin get this. They understand this. While a great many students and faculty agreed with our theological point on homosexuality, many others disagreed. And guess what… That is okay! People can disagree and still live in peaceful accord and with love.

I am so happy I went to Calvin. I had, at one time, thought of laying out because I have not been feeling so well, but I am so glad I went.

Thanks to all the Calvin College folks and, like I said to many students there, I would so transfer to Calvin in a heartbeat, if only I had the cash to pay tuition at a private school 🙁

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Tuesday morning, members of the Equality Ride returned to Cornerstone University and attempted to join the students in the University’s chapel service.

As the Riders approached the building where the service would be held, a campus security officer approached us and told us that we would not be welcome. We stated that we intended to attend chapel and worship with students. He said, “Please don’t force me to call the police.”

I asked him, “So, you would really use the force of police to keep people out of a chapel service, a worship service?”

He looked down, didn’t answer and immediately turned around and got on his walkie-talkie.

While I was in the building where the chapel service would be held for just a little bit, I left long before the police arrived. Since I was arrested yesterday, I would have been immediately arrested without a chance to leave campus if the police had seen me there. On one hand, I really wanted to stay, no matter the cost (which would have been a felony trespassing charge, because of my Monday misdemeanor charge), but on the other, I know that I have many other commitments not only to the Ride but to other outside organizations and people.

An announcement was made inside, asking Soulforce to leave. Some of our members did get up to go and many students also began to walk out with us. We all eventually ended up on the sidewalk, at the edge of campus, speaking to students and faculty.

I’ll have video sometime… maybe, if I have time to put it together.

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On Sunday, Springfield, Ohio, police were called to the Ramada Inn where us Equality Riders stayed a few days ago after staff there found five pipe bombs stashed under a bed. The bombs were located in a room directly across from one of the rooms occupied by members of the Equality Ride:

The Springfield Police Division is trying to contact past guests of the Ramada Limited’s Room 201, where workers found four items officials suspected to be pipe bombs Sunday.

“We would hope they hadn’t been there very long,” Police Sgt. Brian Peabody said Monday.

The devices were found under a bed in the hotel room, located at 319 E. Leffel Lane, officials said.

Carpet layers, who found the devices, took them to the front desk, and a clerk called police.

Guests were evacuated from the hotel after the devices were located about 6:50 p.m.

Ramada Limited staff said Monday they did not know the number of guests they evacuated.

The Dayton Bomb Squad used a robot to remove the devices and take them to a grassy area behind the building about 11 p.m.

We were told about this by our co-directors yesterday evening. I wasn’t going to mention anything about it until it ended up in the paper. While it certainly is scary to think that the bombs might have been meant for us, any sort of conclusion like that is merely conjecture.

The most realistic guesstimate as to what the bombs were doing there is as simple as storage. Yup… the bombs were fused, which meant if anyone were to light them, they would be putting their own safety in danger by having to light them where the bombs were (not remotely) and then scrambling to get out of the building.

Realistically, the bombs probably weren’t meant for us, but we will never know that.

One of our co-directors stated last night how good of a thing it was that this happened so late in the trip. It isn’t something we will have to consciously worry about for another few weeks, as we all head home on May 1st. Neither will we have to check under our beds at each hotel, as we only have one more hotel to stay a few days in before heading home.

Either way… the thought of bombs in a hotel is just plain scary.

Click here to listen to Matt speak about his journey on the Ride and arrest at Cornerstone on WUNC’s State of Things w/ Frank Stasio

I was arrested for trespassing Monday at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, Michigan (previous post, Cornerstone: What we are facing), as we attempted to take a gift from the Soulforce Equality Ride (www.equalityride.com) to the student body of the University and initiate conversation and dialogue on the myriad of issues revolving around faith, sexuality and being gay and Christian.

Both Stephen and I were charged with misdemeanor trespassing, set a court date of May 1st (this is the date on which we would plea guilty, not guilty or no contest — a date I hope I don’t have to keep) and we spent about five and a half hours in jail (most of it in a small holding cell with 8 other people).

Here’s the story from the NBC station in Grand Rapids, WOOD Channel 8:

2 arrested at Cornerstone in gay rights protest

Updated: April 23, 2007 10:28 PM

Matt Comer and Stephen Krebs
Matt Comer and Stephen Krebs

GRAND RAPIDS — Two members of a gay rights group were arrested at Cornerstone University after the group vowed it would come to the campus even though the university made it clear it wasn’t welcome.21-year-old Matt Comer of Greensboro, North Carolina, and Stephen Krebs of Washington, DC, were arrested after arriving on the campus with the Soulforce Equality Ride, a group on a nationwide tour of college campuses.

Soulforce, a group of Christian gay and lesbians with a message promoting sexual diversity on college campuses, visited Cornerstone University on Monday.

“They’re not really interested in dialogue; they want media visuals,” said Cornerstone University President Rex Rogers. “They want to be seen being arrested. They like being portrayed as victims.”

Over 30 members of Soulforce visit universities it believes are homophobic.

“We bring a message of affirmation and of compassion and inclusion,” said Equality Rider Vince Pancucci.

Soulforce first contacted Cornerstone in November, asking permission to meet with students and promote sexual diversity and spirituality.

“We do not align historically or otherwise doctorinally as a Christian university in what they say and believe,” said Rogers.

As a private institution, Cornerstone denied the request for the visit.

As 24 Hour News 8 showed up with cameras, the visit took on the appearance of a media stunt.

“It’s a symbolic action of just saying, we’re not welcome,” said Pancucci. “This is what happens if gay people try to talk with Christian students on the campus.”

Soulforce made the same request of Christian-based Calvin College.

“They were going to come,” said Shirley Hoogstra, Vice President of Student Life at Calvin, “We were going to make sure we had a worthwhile visit.”

“We’re very clear as a denomination: marriage is reserved for a man and a woman, but that we have to offer pastoral care for persons with same sex attraction.”

Calvin believes it will help understanding to have discussion with the group.

Representatives have been working together in recent months creating on-campus educational programs leading up to Tuesday’s visit.

Click here to visit the site.

You can also check out the advance article in the Grand Rapids Press (I’ll post the real article from Tuesday’s paper on Tuesday).

_____________________

Ok… so, first off: There are just a few problems, obviously, with the news coverage from this NBC station. Firstly, the reporter obviously doesn’t know his journalistic “do’s and don’t’s,” especially when it comes to us gay folk. It isn’t “sexual preference” Mr. Center… look those standards up again; I know they say “sexual orientation.”

Also… I absolutely can’t stand that the reporter played right into the hands of Cornerstone’s Dr. Rex Rogers, making our direct action look like only a media stunt. For a reporter who didn’t even have enough responsibility to show up to the press conference, he has some big balls trying to assume what is happening right when he just happened to show up. The time of our direct action was set days in advance and was certainly not decided upon just because the big NBC truck decided to roll up (late for the press conference, mind you).

Cornerstone University is a place where LGBT people are not free to be who they are and to live their lives with integrity, grace and in a way which seeks after the heart and will of God and our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Cornerstone is a place where the school president openly places LGBT people in the same category as child molesters, rapists and murderers and openly doubts the Christianity and faith of others just because they are gay.

Our presence at Cornerstone was a strong one. Our attempt to walk onto campus, delivering a beautiful piece of artwork symbolizing “the Cornerstone” (i.e. Christ) was rejected by Cornerstone University. What harm would have come in letting us deliver the stone to the student body? What harm would have come in LGBT Christians speaking plainly, honestly and openly with others of our faith and others who share the same never-ending trust in Christ? Nothing.

I have been deeply hurt, wounded and offended by the words of Dr. Rex Rogers and the actions of Cornerstone University. I have gone to jail, forced to be silent and forcibly kept away from speaking with my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

Dr. Rex Rogers and Cornerstone University should be ashamed of themselves.

Here is the Scripture quoted on the symbolic cornerstone which Stephen and I attempted to deliver to the University.Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, Chapter 12:16-19, ESV (src)(9) Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. (10) Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. (11) Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. (12) Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. (13) Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. (14) Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. (15) Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. (16) Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.[b] Never be conceited.