Marquette, MI – Wednesday, May 22 – A Rally for Respect, organized and sponsored by Marquette Senior High School’s Gay-Straight Alliance, gathered in the MSHS parking lot and walked to the Marquette Commons to raise awareness about bullying. Their message was “Don’t Stand By, Stand Up,” to encourage those who would otherwise be bystanders to speak up against bullying and promote tolerance.
Despite chilly, misty conditions, more than 50 people participated in the event, which had to be moved indoors due to the weather. It included musical entertainment, community speakers and refreshments.
“The purpose is not just gay rights but everyone included within our schools and our businesses,” said GSA President Aminda Johnson. “We want everyone to feel equal.”
Faculty adviser to the GSA Patti Karwoski introduced three speakers from the community who shared their experiences and thoughts: Chief of Chocolay Township Detective Greg Zyburt, Sue Kensington, a local business owner and former director of the Marquette Women’s Center, and Ruth Almen, a social worker and Marquette resident.
“When we tolerate or encourage abuse of others,” said Detective Zyburt, “We teach that it is okay and allow it to go on.”
The date of May 22 was selected for the event because it is the birthday of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay US politician to become elected to office, assassinated in 1970.
“I’m so proud of this alliance because that’s what creates change,” said Sue Kensington. “That gay people and lesbians can trust the straight people to work with them, and that the straight people can recognize their own privilege and take responsibility to change things for others.”
The video, Stick Up for Love, was projected onto a white screen for the crowd to view as an inspiring close to the event.
“[People] might tell us we should feel ashamed because we’re gay,” said Ruth Almen. “Because we’re too tall, because we’re overweight, because we’re too smart; because we’re police officers or local business owners or social workers; for being female, or poor, for having no dad or two dads, for being any race other than white. But you need not be ashamed of who you are, any of you.”