ETSU student organizations HEROES and the Black Affairs Association organized a National Day of Silence for the campus on Friday.
“The National Day of Silence is a day for LGBTQ identified folk and our allies to speak out through art, visual performance and through information hand outs,” said HEROES President Ben Schaller.
The National Day of Silence, an event first held in 1996 by students at the University of Virginia, is the largest student-led event to lead action toward creating school safety for everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.
The event went national in 1997 and gained the support of over 100 universities. The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network became the official sponsor of the event, and they help organize the event every year.
ETSU has participated in the National Day of Silence since 2010, when the HEROES organization was founded. This year HEROES worked with the Black Affairs Association to help organize the event, and moving forward will invite other student groups sooner.
“We had invited Black Affairs as testament of solidarity between two oppressed groups,” Schaller said. “That of the sexual and gender minorities and of racial and cultural minorities. They helped us get the word out today and several of their members have stopped by to show their support.”
The HEROES organization held an outdoor demonstration in Borchuck Plaza, where students could publicly offer support to their LGBTQ peers.
“Today we had folks write words of encouragement on a free standing door that acts as an art piece, signifying love to everyone trapped in the closet wor to our friends who faced harassment in ever coming out,” Schaller said.
The event hopes to raise awareness of the discrimination and harassment faced by LGBTQ students on a daily basis.
“Many of our peers in the LGBTQ community face discrimination, about 1 in 3 folks, and because of this, our community spikes in regards to self-harm stats and sadly suicide,” Schaller said. “This event also commemorates all of our lost comrades who were just pushed too far for too long. Our silence is speaking to them, and hoping to save future generations from a similar fate.”