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PRIDE breaks the ‘silence’

Each year, the national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community recognizes a Day of Silence — when participants take a vow of silence in honor of those who feel they are without a voice because of their sexual orientation.

In honor of this event, the People Respecting Individual Diversity and Equality (PRIDE) Alliance at USF participated Wednesday to raise student awareness of the oppression some face because of their sexual orientation.

“We are silent to represent anyone who thought they didn’t have a voice or couldn’t have a voice because of where they lived or went to school,” said PRIDE president Kristen Shalosky.

Though the national Day of Silence is April 17, PRIDE decided to hold it two days early on Wednesday to get more people involved in the event, said Lara McDermott, PRIDE treasurer.

PRIDE members and participants gathered in front of Cooper Hall at 10:30 a.m. with a large sign to be used as a “hate wall.” Passersby could sign the wall and write on it any offensive word or phrase they had ever been called.

“A lot of people don’t realize that what they say may offend people,” said PRIDE public relations officer Anna Larson.  “We wanted people to be able to write whatever they wanted so people could understand how strong their words are.”

Around 4:30 p.m., students relocated to the Marshall Student Center Atrium to reflect on the day’s activities and give students a chance to speak for the first time that day about themselves, their experiences and the event’s turnout.

“I think this is the best turnout we’ve had so far,” PRIDE member Emma Makdessi said. “There are so many people here, more than any other year I’ve seen (PRIDE) do this.”

The last major event of the night was the breaking of the hate wall. Members were instructed to beat the hate wall with a bat to show that PRIDE was fighting to end anti-LGBT violence.

McDermott was the first to swing the bat.

“It’s a great way to show that we won’t be silent,” she said. “It’s our way of taking the hate and showing people that we are above it.”