In about a month the world will once again celebrate LGBTQ+ Pride Month. On April 22 and April 23, however, Hope College was party to its own pride events. Prism, the LGBTQ+ empowerment club, hosted the Day of Silence and Breaking the Silence. The Day of Silence occurred on April 22, and participants remained silent for part or all of the day in order to honor LGBTQ+ lives that have been lost to persecution. A sister event, Breaking the Silence, was held on April 23 and was a series of performances that amplified queer voices. The Anchor spoke with Madelyn Smith, a member of Prism’s executive board and performer at Breaking the Silence, to cover these events.
This dual event was the biggest on Prism’s calendar for the semester. Smith explained why Prism wanted to participate in the Day of Silence, a national event, saying, “It’s something that I think a lot of us think is important to draw attention to issues facing the LGBTQ+ community and students everywhere. It’s something that a lot of people have wanted to do for a long time. Something that is visible, something that other students and faculty will notice. And then especially for the Breaking the Silence, something that will showcase queer joy, which isn’t something focused on a lot. There’s a lot of focus on struggles and hardships, and we definitely need to be talking about that and doing things to fix that, but we also need to focus on the joy.”
Smith participated in the Day of Silence, as did many queer students on campus. For her, “The Day of Silence itself was a time to reflect, to think about people who don’t have even the limited voice I have now. People have to think about the situation so many young queer people are in where they can’t be themselves openly, especially in school.”
Hope College has an arguably contentious past with LGBTQ+ equality. Incidents like the repealment of the Statement of Human Sexuality and the 95 Stories protest, which have been covered in past Anchor articles, have occured in the last three years. Smith explained what she believes the Day of Silence can mean for the legacy of queerness on campus, saying, “I like to think that it can be part of the story of Hope College becoming a place where queer students don’t feel silenced. Hope has been on this journey for a long time, like the fight for recognition of what today is Prism. And even allowing expressions of our queerness is with a long fight. And there’s still a long way to go before Hope can be a place that fully and truly welcomes its queer students.”
The Breaking the Silence event was a more celebratory experience. People sang songs and recited poems. Smith was part of a musical performance, commenting, “I performed because I thought it would be meaningful to share some poetry or play some music with a friend of mine. And also just because it’s fun, it’s fun to perform and fun to make music. It’s fun to share queer joy.” Smith also stated that she thought it all “went really well. I was very, very happy to see the turnout that we had for breaking the silence. There was a lot of faculty in the back and students as well. It was fun to see everyone show up even during this time.”
To sum up her thoughts on the events and what she hopes come from them, Smith stated, “There’s so much progress that has been made, and I think there’s so much promise of what can be done. I think Day of Silence and Breaking the Silence can be a part of that journey. We really appreciate everyone who showed up, everyone who was silent and everyone who joined us in our celebration.” She also issued an invitation to all students to be a part of Prism: “Whether you’re a queer or an ally, we’d love to have you in Prism.” Information about Prism can be found by attending their meetings at the Center for Diversity and Inclusion Keppel House from 7 to 9 p.m. on Monday nights, or they can be reached from their email, email@example.com, or their Instagram, @hopecollegeprism.