On Oct. 11, 22 members of Geneseo's Pride Alliance visited the District of Columbia to participate in the National Equality March and demand equal rights for those within the LGBT community.
The march was organized by Equality Across America - a grassroots organization that, according to its Web site, seeks "equal protection for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in all matters governed by civil law in all 50 states."
The National Equality March drew an estimated 200,000 supporters. Juniors Kyle Rodrigues and Christina Miller organized the trip. Both had initially planned to attend the march unaffiliated with Geneseo and the Pride Alliance, but Miller said that both she and Rodrigues soon realized the "across campus need for and interest in" the march.
The two began expanding their plans, seeking the support of Genesee Hall and Pride Alliance. The Rochester Civil Rights Front was contacted to organize two buses to transport students down to D.C., and Student Association subsidized half the price of the bus ticket.
The evening before departure, Geneseo participants gathered to make posters and banners while watching President Barack Obama's speech at the Human Rights Campaign. Afterward, students from Monroe Community College, SUNY Brockport and the Rochester Institute of Technology joined them for the bus ride to the march.
The students who participated were part of a "student contingent" that led the marches. Rodrigues said that having students lead the march made "an important statement to the nation [regarding the] strong youth component" of LGBT activism.
Protesters marched 2.33 miles through the district before arriving at Capitol Hill. Rodrigues said the feeling was incredible when a speaker informed the already-large crowd that there was still seven blocks of marchers yet to arrive.
At the Capitol, the students listened to 30 presenters from different facets of the LGBT community, including Lady Gaga, Cynthia Nixon, Cleve Jones and Lt. Daniel Choi, who was discharged from the U.S. military because of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. The cast of the Broadway musical Hair led the protestors in a sing-along of "Let the Sunshine In," a song from the show.
According to Miller, the march helped participants feel "a sense of greater connectedness to the LGBT community … everyone felt as though their country was starting to recognize them."
"While the march is very important," Rodrigues said, "what is more important is to bring the experience and a sense of activism back to your community." He said the Pride Alliance intends to make activism a priority in planning future activities.