At 8 p.m. on April 19, I jumped over the fence leading to the Citrus parking lot from the Mods like I have many times for intramural soccer. But this time it was for the sixth annual Art of Discovery. The event was once held in Seven Palms, however due to denied proposals by APU administration, it has since been moved off campus.
According to Associate Vice President of Student Life Willie Hamlett, Haven’s request to utilize Seven Palms arrived during Spring Break and the two committees in charge of responding to these types of requests were unable to meet in time to make a decision.
“We value, respect and most importantly love all people. I look
forward to continued dialogue with students about our mission and its
impact on culture,” Hamlett said.
Christmas lights outlined a makeshift stage that sat on Citrus’ parking lot. The backdrop consisted of a long piece of red fabric draped across two trees holding two striped flags. The Haven memory kite, created at the group’s inception, hung from the stage. It held articles and letters written in the past, relating to the group.
People slowly trickled in and found a spot on a blanket, chair, couch, beanbag, cushion, or seat in the backseat of a car. Some slowly walked around the area looking at the art surrounding the stage with cups of tea in hand. The size of the group increased as time passed and eventually there were nearly 200 people lingering around the stage.
At 8:30 p.m., the show began. The night was introduced with a reading of a statement created by those in Haven, a support network of LGBTQ students and supporters, a group that is not currently recognized as a club by APU. Next, Rev. Susan Russell, an open lesbian priest from All Saints Church in Pasadena, opened in prayer.
The Art of Discovery was planned as a celebration; an evening of music, art, dance and poetry, while exploring the topics of gender, sexual orientation and sexual identity.
“People don’t really realize how much students with different sexual orientations have similar life to them and so there are similar struggles that they go through and it’s just good to have a small group to deal with those,” APU alum Dara Glanzer said.
The night was filled with music, dancing, poetry, comedy and short skits. Although many of the performers were APU students, many came from Citrus, Mount Sac, Biola and neighboring churches. APU alum Melissa Dorman recited a poem about her time at APU. She arrived as a heterosexual and eventually fell in love with another heterosexual girl.
“And as you walk down the halls of every classroom — no better, every dorm — the music grows louder still until the melody thunders like a storm. Soon the celebration of all sexual orientations will be the campus norm. And may tonight, my story, just add another note to the music we will form. As we leave here tonight free from the pressures to conform,” Dorman recited from her poem.
An APU professor, who preferred to be kept anonymous, attended the event as a supporter.
“A lot of these kids are my students and I just wanted them to know that they have the support and love from at least one of their professors. I know that a lot of professors do support this group and this movement, but unfortunately most of them can’t come to these things because they will get in big trouble. The perception among the faculty is that you really cannot touch this subject, unless you’re going to condemn it completely,” the APU professor said.
The Rev. Susan Russell has been married to her wife for seven years, and her church has been openly blessing homosexual marriages for over 20 years.
“I think that it’s important because I am an out lesbian and an Episcopal priest. It’s important to stand up and speak out when I can, to be a role model and to show a sense that there certainly are places where being authentic about who you are is not a barrier to living a full and productive life,” Russell said.
Russell is also a contributor for the Huffington Post’s Gay Voices column, in which she wrote about Haven’s event in an article entitled “Voices from a Parking Lot,” published Monday.
The anonymous professor does not see the policy or culture that APU has in place ever changing.
“Parents aren’t going to send their kids here if they think that there’s a ‘gay club,’ that’s just the bottom line,” the APU professor said.
Junior sociology major Glenda McDannell helped plan the event and felt that it panned out perfectly.
“I know that APU policy has changed and that LBGT students are now allowed to identify with their sexual orientations, but they aren’t allowed to be in relationships or act on it or romanticize. [Haven] is to create a space for people to be safe and to be free, to be whom they were made to be,” McDannell said.