Saline UpRoar Students Provide Board With Lesson on Struggle for LGBT+ Rights

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 07/02/2019 - 13:43

Three representatives from the Saline High School social justice club UpRoar spoke before the Saline school district's Board of Education to publicly shine a light on the Stonewall riots that begat the first gay pride marches and led to the formation of the LGBT+ community that exists today.

Saline High School students Abby, Anja, and John shared both the history of Stonewall as well as what they did this month to recognize its significance while celebrating the successes and struggles of the gay community's journey to one day having full equality across the country.

"Stonewall is often missed, particularly in history classes," Abby said. "It's just kind of glossed over and not even mentioned at all, so what we decided to do was celebrate by building a kind of wall and talking about it to help educate a little bit further on the topic."

The wall had photographs of prominent figures and heroes of the LGBT+ community struggle over the five decades since the June 28, 1969 riot in Greenwich New York at the Stonewall Inn, where gay men and women congregated socially. At the time, being homosexual was essentially illegal and police would raid establishments frequented by the gay community.

"Before Stonewall, if you engaged in anything that looked like homosexual activity, you could be arrested," Abby said. "There was even a three-piece clothing rule that said that if you're not supposed to be wearing three pieces of clothing that fit your gender, you could be arrested."

Typically the patrons of an establishment such as the Stonewall Inn would just flee during a raid, if they weren't arrested. But the Stonewall patrons decided to do something different.

"People stood up for their rights and said, 'Hey -- it's okay for us to be who we are,'" Abby said. "We don't have to follow these rules. There's nothing wrong with what we're doing."

While the UpRoar club members were nervous when they put up their showpiece wall with photos of Brenda Howard and Harvey Milk on one side and space on the other for people to place sticky notes with statements of what LGBT+ pride means to them, the end result was overwhelmingly positive.

"One side was what happened and what contributed to now, and the now is what will hopefully contribute to our future," John said.

Anja pointed out that some people went a step further and left flowers at the wall, which was up at SHS for nearly two weeks.

"I thought it was really amazing," Anja said. "People really showed their support and we thought that was really cool."

Abby noted that there were some negative comments on the wall, but "it wasn't a big deal, because you can just take them off,” she said. "We were all a little bit nervous about what was going to be put on that wall -- what hate are we gonna get, but it wasn't that bad. There was a lot of support from teachers and students."

The Saline Post was unable to obtain the last names of the students who gave this presentation by last name as of publish. 

(Editor's Note: This story was corrected to say that Darcy Berwick is not a member of UpRoar.)

Sean Dalton's picture
Sean Dalton
Sean Dalton is a veteran of the Washtenaw County journalism scene. He co-founded and and also worked for Heritage Newspapers.