Friday, September 23, 2011

Give Hate a Holiday -- Tupelo or Bust!

Take a Stand for Justice & Equality for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender & All People
Tupelo, Mississippi
October 10, 2011

A very special series of events will take place in Tupelo, MS on Monday, October 10, to help raise visibility and public awareness about the lives and concerns of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Mississippi and throughout the South, and to help build support for ongoing local, state, and regional efforts to make our communities more just, inclusive, humane, and safe for LGBT and all people who call them home.

In line with recent high profile public debates about bullying and youth suicides, safe schools, family equality, military service, racial intolerance and other civil and human rights concerns, there will be an emphasis on the perspectives and needs of LGBT youth, as well as efforts to help bridge the gaps, created by those who use religion and politics as weapons of hate, that have divided families, friends, churches and communities on these issues for far too long.

Tupelo holds special significance as the setting for these events because it is headquarters for the American Family Association, a controversial national organization recently designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for the “thoroughly discredited falsehoods and demonizing propaganda it pumps out about homosexuality and other sexual minorities.”

The Give Hate A Holiday events will begin with an 11:00 AM press conference at Tupelo's Link Centre, featuring coalition representatives, to offer statements and answer questions about its purpose and goals. Mark Potok, Director of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project will also unveil an explosive new Special Report titled “THE PROPAGANDISTS: Bryan Fischer, the American Family Association & the Demonization of LGBT People.” Additionally, Southern Clergy for Inclusion will release “A Southern Proclamation” in which they proclaim God’s love for all, including LGBT persons and publicly apologize where they have been silent.

The public events events will start at 12:00 Noon with a peaceful and colorful demonstration on Main Street in front of Tupelo's Link Centre where participants are invited to declare, with banners, posters, chants and other creative forms of public witness, their commitment to the struggle for inclusion, fairness and equality for LGBT people and to call out to others to join the movement and take a stand.

At 2:00 PM, in the Link Centre Concert Hall, there will be a free public screening of OUT IN THE SILENCE, the acclaimed, hopeful and inspiring documentary film about courageous local residents confronting homophobia and the limitations of religion, tradition and the status quo in their conservative small town, followed by a dynamic town hall-style public forum aimed at engaging the audience in an action-oriented dialogue about inclusion, fairness, and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and all people in Mississippi, throughout the South, and across the country. Filmmakers Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer will be on-hand to help lead the discussion, and the public is invited to participate and to share their perspectives on the issues, and ideas for promoting change, with the audience. (There will be a Repeat Screening and Town Hall Forum at 7:00 PM for those unable to attend the 2:00 PM showing.)

Following the film screening and town-hall forum, participants are invited to continue the conversation in the Link Centre's Reception Hall and to visit with representatives of local, state, and national groups and organizations to learn about the work and how to get more involved and take action. (If you or your organization would like to set-up an information table, please contact Melanie Deas at:

Co-sponsors of the Give Hate a Holiday event include: Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Tupelo -- Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Oxford -- PFLAG Tupelo -- PFLAG Oxford/North Mississippi -- Gulf Region PFLAG -- University of Mississippi Gay-Straight Alliance -- OUTlaw at The University of Mississippi -- Mississippi Workers' Center for Human Rights -- ACLU of Mississippi -- Unitarian Universalist Mid South District -- Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations "Standing on the Side of Love" Campaign -- Believe Out Loud -- Americans United for Separation of Church and State -- Tennessee Equality Project -- Georgia Equality -- Equality Federation -- Out Now Youth (Springfield, MA) -- GetEQUAL -- and YOU! (To put your group's name on the co-sponsor list, contact Joe Wilson at:


About the Film: When a popular 16-year-old jock is brutally attacked for coming out at his small town high school in the hills of western Pennsylvania, his mother reaches out for help to the only person she feels she can trust, an openly gay man who lives 300 miles away – native son and filmmaker Joe Wilson, whose same-sex wedding announcement ignited a firestorm of controversy in the local paper. Returning home with camera in hand, Wilson documents the harrowing but ultimately successful battle waged by the teen and his mom against recalcitrant school authorities, the efforts of a local lesbian couple to restore an historic theater in the face of vitriolic anti-gay attacks, and his own unexpected friendship with a conservative evangelical preacher. Intertwined with these heartfelt stories is Wilson's exploration of the role that the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Family Association plays in anti-LGBT controversies. At once tough, wrenching, inspiring, and entertaining, OUT IN THE SILENCE ultimately shows the individual and community transformations that are possible when people, on all sides of these challenging issues, lay down their swords and take the time to get to know one another.

OUT IN THE SILENCE was produced in association with the Sundance Institute and Penn State Public Broadcasting, premiered at the 2010 Human Rights Watch International Film Festival in New York, and won an Emmy Award for Achievement in Documentary. The film has become the centerpiece of a dynamic grassroots campaign aimed at raising visibility and promoting dialogue and civic engagement in small towns and rural communities across the country.

Media Contact: Joe Wilson -- Email:

A press kit and more information about the film and community engagement campaign are available at:

"A Bible-Believing Christian Response to Out In The Silence" - Featuring the American Family Association of Pennsylvania's Diane Gramley:


Shellhen said...

I am a person who does not choose your lifestyle. I am a relationship-with-Christ-church-going-person in rural Mississippi. I DO NOT HATE! Just because someone does something I do not agree with does not make me hate them! Please don't judge every one with that attitude! I pray that when you gather in Tupelo you will be received with the TRUE love of Christ!

Joe Wilson said...

re: willshell

Your own words tell a different story. And it is not your prerogative to tell me, or anyone else, how we feel in response to such words or in response to the actions of those who seek to marginalize or exclude LGBT people from full and equal participation in the life of our communities and nation.

Anonymous said...

I agree with WillShell. Disagreement does not equal hate. The entire world will never agree with your lifestyle. God does love you, despite yourself. He just wants you to trust Him enough to believe that He can help you overcome your choice to live this lifestyle. I look forward to seeing you guys in Tupelo. Maybe we can do lunch!

UU Lay Minister said...

I understand how years of indoctrination with biblical doctrine condition some people to be unable to think without bias and prejudice about homosexual behavior. Nevertheless, you need to understand that modern science shows that sexual identity is inborn. The Creator makes some people homosexuals. They have no choice. Unless you believe that God makes mistakes, they must be who they are created to be. Jesus told us not to judge. Should we not follow that teaching?