Club Stands Silent to Honor Hate Crime Victims

Jason Cherry shows support in the Quad for Day of Silence on April 23, 2009. ()

Jason Cherry shows support in the Quad for “Day of Silence” on April 23, 2009. ()

Ariel Messman-Rucker

On any given day, the Quad assaults the senses with loud music, shouted conversation and clouds of cigarette smoke.

But on April 23, silence surrounded members of the Queer Straight Alliance, who took over the cement stage with a large banner that read, “Day of Silence observance, shh!”

Other placards proclaimed “Equality,” “Understanding,” “Friendship,” “Hope,” “Acceptance,” “Respect” and “Unity.”

“We are silent to represent those who have been silenced because of the oppression, hatred and harassment they receive,” said Dayana Claghorn, former QSA president and organizer of the event.

QSA members and other students took vows of silence for six hours, beginning at 8:30 a.m. to bring awareness to issues facing lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students.

The Day of Silence is an event held on high school and college campuses across the country to call attention to “anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools” and to “encourage schools and classmates to address the problem of anti-LGBT behavior,” according to the official Day of Silence website.

While the official national Day of Silence is celebrated April 17, the QSA was forced to move its event to last week because of spring break.

Participants wore red arm bands and were given small signs that could be placed on desks to explain their silence while in class.

 Claghorn said 25 to 30 students participated in the Quad, and she witnessed non-club members wearing arm bands and taking vows of silences in almost every class she attended that day.

“This is one of the most important events in the nation for LGBT youth,” she said.

At the end of the event the group symbolically broke the silence by ripping up the banner and shouting out words like “equality” and “respect.”

“We especially focus on destroying the word ‘silence,’ because silence is not something we want,” said Claghorn who identifies as queer. “We want to be able to be vocal. If I’m a man I want to be able to say, ‘I love this man,’ or if I’m a woman I wan to be able to say ‘I love this woman'”

Marky David, 19, who identifies as gay said the vow of silence allowed him to take “a stroll down memory lane” and reflect on how he was harassed and called “faggot” at his small Christian high school.

“Looking back now and saying like, ‘Hey, I survived’ is great,” David said.

QSA treasurer Aleks Levin said being gay isn’t “who” he is, but “what” he is.

“Honestly I’ve never felt my rights, outside of the gay marriage thing, ever infringed upon,” Levin said, adding he is lucky to live in the Bay Area where people’s “eyes are as open as they can get, for the most part.”

Onlooker Sarah Levine, 19, said she appreciated the event.

“I like this,” she said. “They’re staying true, but not rubbing it in people’s faces.”

While others also responded positively, at least two students confused it with the previous day’s celebration.

Asked whether he knew the meaning behind the Day of Silence, Jesse Hernandez, 18, responded, “Not exactly, but I knew it was something to do with Earth Day.”