Celebrating 15 Years of Soulforce: Remembering the First Equality Ride in 2006

The 15 for 15 campaign continues, celebrating 15 years of Soulforce activism. So far we have raised more than $8000 toward our goal of $15,000 by the end of Pride Month! Please donate here: http://soulforce.com/donate.

The first Equality Ride in 2006 took 36 young adults to 19 colleges and universities that practiced open discrimination against LGBTQ students. There have been four subsequent Rides, with the last being in 2012. This year and next, Soulforce will experiment with doing stationary and sustained activism through “Equality Ride Houses” in two locations.

But the Equality Ride, as a continuing program that trains young activists and transforms lives, continues to inform the work of Soulforce with the understanding that Justice Is a Journey!

Read some prophetic words from Angel Collie, our first trans* Rider, from 2006. And enjoy this photo documentary from the Saint Petersburg Times, with pictures by our friend, photojournalist Willie Allen.

The Ride Must Never End

by Angel Collie

“From day one, the Equality Ride has pushed me and challenged me far outside of my comfort zone into the only area we ever grow. For that I am truly grateful. I spoke in my church before I left and I coined it a ‘Spiritual Social Justice Boot Camp,’ and I often find myself wishing I wasn’t so accurate, but in the next thought I wouldn’t change it for the world.

“I came on the Ride afraid to stand up and have a voice, even within my own congregation. Now I can give a speech with less than a few minutes notice. I came on this Ride not believing I could accomplish much, and so many times with God’s help, I have seen awesome events organized in just seconds. I came on this Ride expecting to be yelled at and hated and found more Christ-like love than I ever could have imagined. It all goes to show how, as humans, we all have preset expectations that are often inaccurate and lack faith.

“Thus, the single most valuable lesson I have taken from this Ride is to truly, “Let go, and let God.” It’s always something I said and tried to believe, but I saw it work time and time over. I came hoping to change the hearts and minds of others, but what really happened is a change in my own heart and mind. I found that just as Christians hold stereotypes about us, we likewise do the same. I realized, in Evangelical Christians, I saw the faces and heard the words of those who had caused me to stumble so early in my faith journey. I became cold and shut myself off because my expectation was spiritual violence, or being told it’s an oxymoron to be Gay and Christian. It is on this ride that I have learned that God called us to evangelize to all people, not just those who look, act, and think exactly as we do. …

“I have also been asked to reflect on the tangible things we have done on this Ride in knowing many seeds we plant will never be seen. I think back to the students, the administrators, the community members, and even the police forces we have come in contact with, knowing many have been changed. They are changed because of who we are and the values we hold. No longer can the stereotypes pinned on us precede us, because to know us is to love us.

“Over and over I am overtaken by the importance and significance of this Ride and the effect it has in the lives of individual students. So often, we go to schools and find a student body starving for these conversations. Students are so glad we are there because, for once, they get to hear they are ok— not sick and sinful.

“More and more, as the end nears, I understand that it must not end. There are too many places we have yet to reach and too many people who need to be told God loves them as they are. It is tiring work, but truthfully, it’s what is right. We are all called to do justice, and LGBT youth can no longer ignore our calling. … We have begun to love ourselves and unite as a sacred community, loved, blessed, and affirmed by God. No longer should people be made to feel guilt simply because of who they love. The ride may be close to wrapping up for 2006, but the message can never end.”