Columnist Brandon Baker finds equality a common cause with a local activism group.
GLBT activism has come a long way since the beer bottle-tossing and penny-throwing days of the Stonewall riots. Gays and lesbians have since formally united as a community to devise a simple-but-genuine public message and persevere in an ongoing struggle for equality.
But the story of GLBT activism isn’t entirely a sugarcoated one, as many continue to criticize institutionalized activist organizations as laden with hidden agendas and consumed by the political games so prevalent in today’s society.
That’s part of the reason why I found myself so enthralled by the Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition, which prides itself in being one of the next major steps in the growing history of GLBT activism. The first student-led, youth-run statewide organization of its kind, PSEC is a newborn non-profit activist organization whose roots are seeded in the city of Philadelphia, and even Temple.
“We’re focused on getting into communities and making change–making a generation of impact,” Executive Director and PSEC co-founder Jason Goodman said. “We pride ourselves on focusing on the work, rather than the non-profit infrastructure.”
Goodman, who plays an instrumental role in organizing PSEC events, makes several trips each week around the region to Harrisburg, Erie and beyond in the process of lobbying for GLBT equality as well as communicating with affiliates. This is all in addition to his course-load at the University of Pennsylvania.
PSEC, which officially became a non-profit organization on April 28, held its own constitutional convention just last month to officially declare a mission statement and unite regional leaders. Goodman and his student comrades signed the constitution as a symbolic gesture of dedication to the cause of equal rights.
“It was a really defining moment–there wasn’t anyone else in the room telling us what to do, and we were saying, ‘This is how we’re going to run our show,’” Goodman said.
The gathering also included two prominent Temple GLBT activists: current Queer Student Union President Brianna Edwards, along with PSEC Philadelphia Regional Chair Connor Hesketh.
“An important lesson I think I took from the whole convention is that it takes one person to come up with an idea, but a team to make it happen,” Edwards said.
Edwards stressed the importance of Temple students taking initiative and getting involved with GLBT activism as a supporter, whether through QSU or PSEC.
“I think [QSU] offers a lot of resources for students to get involved,” she said. “And I think PSEC has the potential to positively impact the commonwealth of Pennsylvania. They’ve only just begun, but I can see it evolving into something powerful.”
Hesketh, who served as QSU’s president in the spring of 2011, emphasized the unique strength PSEC has as a youth-led organization.
“There are programs out there that are focused on youth, but they are run by adults. This totally defeats the purpose of empowering youth,” he said. “The youth is a powerful group with untold potential, and if the community really wants to create change, they must realize that they can’t do it without us, and vice versa.”
Hesketh also emphasized the need for a more hands-on approach with activism on Temple’s campus.
“If I could give advice to QSU, I would say that advocacy isn’t the hardest thing in the world. Sometimes you just need to roll up your sleeves and give the extra effort,” Hesketh said. “QSU has so much potential and the leaders are absolutely fabulous. I just hope that this year they work together to really bring some change to Temple’s community.”
PSEC ultimately surfaces as a breath of fresh air in a movement that finds itself growing stale and dated in both its methods and its messages. The youth perspective serves to divert the conversation about GLBT equality in a new direction, one that I dare say may be more relevant to the future of the GLBT community and what it really means to be “gay.”
Those looking to support PSEC in an indirect and fun-filled way should keep an eye out for an intercollegiate GLBT dance party courtesy of PSEC and PhillyGayCalendar, located at iCandy on Friday, Sept. 30. Proceeds benefit PSEC.
Brandon Baker can be reached at email@example.com.