Some students at Brigham Young University want students across Utah to join a nationwide college walkout.
The Black Menaces teamed up with the Religious Exemptions Accountability Project to organize the Oct. 11 walkout, called “Strike Out Homophobia,” to protest discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community and other minorities on campuses of religious colleges and universities.
“We are walking out to protest the end of legal discrimination by religious universities against queer individuals,” Sebastian Stuart-Johnson, content coordinator and editor for the Black Menaces, said in a Sept. 6 TikTok video.
BYU, founded by Brigham Young in 1875, continues to be sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and operated by the Church Educational System.
Students from across the country and state, including those at Salt Lake Community College, are invited to participate, as organizers hope to get more than 100 colleges and universities involved. The walkout begins at noon on Oct. 11, which is National Coming Out Day.
The goal, according to the event website, is to bring Title IX protections, which prohibit sex-based discrimination in any school that receives federal funding, to private religious schools exempt from the law.
Elisa Stone, a professor of English and Queer Studies and an advisor for the Queer Student Association at SLCC, believes the walkout could be effective in prompting change.
“Peaceful protest is always impactful,” she said. “Anything we can do to get the attention of those who are choosing to oppress and let them know that the oppressed are rising up, that’s when things begin to shift.”
Stone said, in her advisory role, she tries to ensure SLCC is a safe place for LGBTQ+ students and minorities.
“I fight every single day for people who are oppressed by organized religion in any way to claim their authentic identity, to be who they are, and to know that they are seen, loved, and way more than tolerated,” she said. “They deserve to be celebrated.”
Three years ago, on National Coming Out Day, SLCC opened its Gender & Sexuality Student Resource Center (GSSRC), which works to support SLCC’s LGBTQ+ students throughout their education. The GSSRC holds activities and support groups and provides resources to women, LGBTQ+ students and allies.
Nizhoni Tsosie, an English student at SLCC and related to several graduates of BYU, said that she would be interested in participating in the walkout.
The videos the Black Menaces make for TikTok, which have been going viral for months, paired with planning events like the walkout and participating in protests in Provo “takes guts,” Tsosie said.
“The Black Menaces have become notorious among my family,” she said. “I think they’re doing what all BIPOC students at BYU wish they could’ve done. It’s kind of amazing to see just a handful of students and a microphone make a whole school feel on edge.”