What to Do if You Can't Be Silent
Tomorrow is Southern Connecticut State University's Annual Day of Silence celebration, and in less than twelve hours, LGBT Prism, my university's Gay/Straight Alliance; the SCSU chapter of Amnesty International, an international human rights organization; and a dozen of other student clubs and allies will be demonstrating on the large bridge that connects East and West Campuses and standing silently for about four hours. There will be some "Speaking People" to help coordinate how people will be spread out on the bridge and around campus; take pictures; talk to students passing by if they have questions about the people staying silent, and talk with the media should they arrive. We also know that many members of the campus community are staying silent in their classes; fortunately, the faculty and administration have been very supportive. We feel very lucky to have gotten so much support from the university. We are expecting even more people at our community vigil/speak-out later tomorrow night, which will be taped and sent to the president of the university. Even though she cannot attend, she has told us that she supports our message 100%!
I have received questions from many of my fellow students and some faculty about what to do if you can't stay silent. For instance, one of my fellow peers, a wonderful ally of the LGBT community, states that she has three or four oral presentations (one in Japanese!) tomorrow and can't stay silent or else she will fail her assignments. Moreover, one supportive faculty member told me she had already planned an important lecture for her class that cannot be held back and is conflicted as to how to observe the Day of Silence.
Fortunately, I was able to give these two people good tips on how to observe the Day of Silence, even if they can't stay silent for all or any part of the day:
1. If you're a student, let people know what the Day of Silence is and what people are doing nation/worldwide to observe or celebrate it. It is always good to let people know what the Day of Silence is and, more importantly, why it's so important even if everyone in your campus community is not observing it. By spreading the word and garnering support from students and school staff this year, you might be able to organize a Day of Silence the following year that will engage more students and gain more administrative support. Word-of-mouth is the strongest form of publicity!
2. If you're a teacher, incorporate the theme or message of the Day of Silence into your lesson plans. The faculty member at SCSU who I talked to stated that she was doing a lecture on oppression in Mexico, so I advised her that she should connect the Day of Silence's anti-oppression message with the issue of prejudice and discrimination in Mexico. Not only will this create a meaningful relationship between the Day of Silence and a course topic, but it also has the potential to mobilize students to learn more about the topic and take action.
I think it's important to remember that just because the Day of Silence requires one to stay silent, that does not mean that it makes one invisible. Unfortunately, the many types of oppression that exist within society force one to be marginalized to the point of invisibility. However, our shared purpose for this day of action should be to show our communities that silence can often speak louder than words and serve as the mirror for people's own prejudices and societal bigotry.