WASHINGTON –Westboro Baptist Church, the infamous unaffiliated church known for its hateful, unorthodox protests, especially against homosexuality, brought its hate speech to Howard University April 10 – and the university’s students and staff fought back.
Armed with picket signs, the organization, which has been denounced by the two largest Baptist denominations, gathered on Howard’s campus at 6th Street to denounce OUTlaw, Howard University School of Law’s organization for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender and queer students.
“AMERICA IS DOOMED,” “MOURN FOR YOUR SINS” and “GOD H8S FAG MARRIAGE,” the signs read. One featured a depiction of anal sex.
Howard students met the signs with their own. Dressed in all-black or rainbow colors, the students held signs that read “HOWARD <3s OUR LGBTQ,” “ALL BLACK LOVE MATTERS” and “GOD LOVES EVERYONE.”
Howard Protest (Photo from Howard U. News Service (HUNS))
Nearly 100 students gathered at the flagpole and marched to the corner of 6th Street and Howard Place, where they promptly turned their backs on Westboro. With fists raised in defiance, the sea of students sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” and more than one student shed a few tears. Only 20 minutes after starting, Westboro headed down the hill to the taunts of Howard students, who turned around to send them on their way.
“I thought it was perfect,” said Nia Johnson, a junior economics major. “I definitely felt the love and I felt proud. I was actually happy it ended early. Our power showed them that it wasn’t worth it here.”
Amber Mason, president of OUTlaw, agreed. “This sort of hate-filled rhetoric is not condoned on our campus, and we want to show them that through a show of solidarity,” Mason said. “That’s now how we think here at Howard. We are inclusive, we’re accepting and their kind of speaking and behavior will not be condoned.”
Lydia Durfler, the organizer of the student protest, said she did so because the LGBT community at Howard is often slighted. “I don’t think it gets enough outright support from the Howard community, especially where the administration and faculty Anti-Gay Protest Backfires at Howard University is concerned,” said Durfler, a senior political science major and an Amnesty International intern.
“And if we had a group on campus saying derogatory things about Black folk and we weren’t doing something to build ourselves up in the midst of that, that would seem pretty crazy. The same goes for the LGBTQ community.”
Joshua Narcisse, president of the Chapel Assistants, an interfaith organization with Howard’s Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel, said his organization stands against Westboro Baptist Church. “One of the dominant themes in Christianity is love,” Narcisse said. “So, at the end of the day, whether it be Christianity, Islam, Hinduism or Buddhism, this love or respect for humanity is at the center of the work that the chapel does. And this is really just a part of us affirming that.”
Tyleah Hawkins, a senior broadcast journalism major, also objected to Westboro’s belief and its tactics. “I’m a Christian, but I’ve always been an advocate for gay rights,” Hawkins said. “I don’t agree with preaching hate. I am a proud Christian. I love Jesus . . . and I feel like Jesus would be out here protesting with me.”