Seeing Red: Do you want to riot or rejoice?
“The first resistance to social change is to say it’s not necessary,” Gloria Steinem, renowned feminist and social activist, said.
Cody Miller (junior, biology) and his boyfriend, Franklin Mosley (senior, vocal performance), witnessed firsthand in June the receipt of the kind of social change that Gloria Steinem references.
Miller and Mosley had only been dating for about a month and, like most new couples, were eager to share as many new experiences with one another as possible.
Miller, trying to maintain a well-informed understanding of current rights issues, received an invite to the “RIOT or REJOICE” rally in Pittsburgh via an advertisement from the Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh and decided to attend the event with his boyfriend in tow.
The rally, which took place on Pittsburgh’s Liberty Avenue, between Ninth and 10th Streets, was in anticipation of the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act. The rally was one of many taking place in major cities around the country.
“Considering how important the two cases were,” Miller said, “I figured it’d be a good opportunity just to get in there and be in the midst of it.”
Although Mosley had previously taken part in a gay rights march in Washington, D.C., he has never considered himself to be socially active and didn’t expect much of an experience when he agreed to attend.
Those in attendance witnessed the Supreme Court’s ruling live on a large outdoor television with a speaker setup.
The crowd responded with rejoice and not a riot when the decision was reached, in spite of Twitter beating the televised announcement to the punch.
“It was practically part of history,” Mosley said. “It was kind of overwhelming being there, in the midst of the crowd and standing there and holding this giant pride flag while the music played. And then they announced the decision.”
It was an energy that Mosley said he felt almost immediately.
“Something happens to you while you’re there,” Mosley said. “You hear something, or someone says something to you or near you, and it just fuels some fire that you didn’t know you had inside of you.”
The couple’s experience didn’t end there, though.
Before agreeing to attend the rally with Miller, Mosley had requested that, should the decision be ruled in the couple’s favor, the two of them recreate Alfred Eisenstaedt’s classic photograph, “V-J Day in Times Square,” which depicts a sailor kissing a nurse mid-dip.
Making good on their arrangement, Miller and Mosley indeed did recreate the photograph with the help of another rally-goer.
After the photo was taken and the couple felt more content than they had when they arrived, the couple kissed again, but it was unknowingly in front of the lens of a television station’s camera.
That evening, both of them felt the reprisals of such a public display of affection.
Mosley discovered through several text messages from friends across the state that the kiss had been featured in footage broadcast on sizable television stations across the state and, ultimately, on NBC’s nationally broadcast program, “Nightline.”
The exposure was surprisingly welcomed by Mosley, someone who doesn’t consider himself a “fan of PDA.”
“It was a little bigger a part of history than I had hoped to be,” Mosley said.
While the national coverage wasn’t too intense for Mosley, who had come out to most of his family and friends in 2007, Miller received attention he wasn’t prepared for.
Several of Miller’s close family members learned of his homosexuality for the first time when they recognized his face on the news, kissing another young man.
Despite the shock of inadvertently coming out to your entire family on national television, the kiss had its silver linings for Miller.
“It was kind of a stylish way to come out with a bang,” he said.
Both of them feel that these changes, big and small, are all part of a much longer road of change to come.
For Mosley, someone who initially only went “for the hell of it,” the event was a reminder of the importance of knowledge and involvement.
“Once you finally open your eyes,” he said, “you’re part of something that’s much bigger than yourself.”
The DOMA ruling is just one of many instances of change being made as a result of guided social response. So, IUP students, both new and old, when considering the possibility of change, ask yourselves one question: Do you want to riot, or do you want to rejoice?