Group begins equality project

By Colleen Kochensparger | @KyKernel

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A local volunteer organization is beginning a project to promote equality on UK’s campus and in downtown Lexington.

Lexington Fairness, which works to promote equality for all individuals, is beginning the project, known as “FAIRNESS: personified,” this week.

“Simply put, (Lexington Fairness is) an LGBT fairness and equality organization, about 12 years old now, actively working to create a safe environment for folks to come out and be who we are,” Lexington Fairness Chairman Roy Harrison said.

The organization stands for other groups as well as the LGBT community, said Jeremy Haycraft, one of two UK student interns at Lexington Fairness and a corporate communications senior.

“It’s a great organization here in Lexington, basically focused on looking at groups and communities that may have been bullied,” Haycraft said.

One of the organization’s most well-known projects is Project Speak Out, in which Lexington Fairness volunteers “train teachers and soon-to-be-teachers to identify and prevent bullying,” Harrison said.

Lexington Fairness’s newest project hopes to continue working toward LGBT fairness in the community by incorporating Lexington landmarks into photographs of Lexington inhabitants holding signs to show their acceptance of all individuals.

“It’s not the most original idea but to give it that spin (by incorporating local landmarks) we hope (to connect) to the people we serve and try to work with,” Harrison said.

The photographs will show that “it’s not just LGBT individuals fighting for rights; it’s the allies, too,” Harrison said.

The first round of photographs will be taken in downtown Lexington on Friday and will feature landmarks such as Rupp Arena and Triangle Park, as well as ministers and bishops posing in front of their parishes, and photographs designed to include the cityscape in the background.

“The downtown session will be kind of like a tour of the city,” Harrison said.

With the photographs, Lexington Fairness is hoping to “blow up the social media; people can post those pictures and tag them,” said Kody Little, the other UK student intern at Lexington Fairness.

“We’re going to be taking pictures of leaders in the community that everyone knows, that have a following,” said Little, an integrated strategic communication senior.

The second round of photographs will be taken on UK’s campus the following Friday.

There is a possible third location for a third photo shoot, another iconic Lexington backdrop, that has not yet been confirmed.

The eventual plans for the photographs include a public art gallery featuring as many of the participants as possible.

“If we get a hundred of these photographs lined up, of people of all different shapes, sizes, and colors, it speaks to you more — we all support fairness,”  Harrison said.

Sometimes it is enough just to know that support exists in the community, Little said.

“When everyone was changing their Facebook photos to the red equals sign (to support legal marriage equality), so many people I know (did so) even before I (changed mine), so that was a nice feeling,” Little said.

Events like the Pride Festival put Lexington at the forefront of LGBT acceptance, Haycraft said.

“It’s really comforting just how great Lexington is. The stereotype of Kentucky is one thing, but in truth we have a very welcoming community,” Harrison said.

The idea for “FAIRNESS: personified” came out of the realization of how much progress was made in such a short time for LGBT individuals in Lexington and throughout the nation, Harrison said.

“We have become less invisible … all of a sudden people are talking about their gay friends and colleagues. It’s that personal touch that has gained us allies, (understanding that) it’s not a gay person — it’s my friend,” Harrison said.

Lexington Fairness hopes to make it as easy as possible to show support for LGBT individuals through the project.

Lexington Fairness hopes to educate with projects like “FAIRNESS: personified,” but its members realize that they cannot change people’s minds for them, Harrison said.

“An organization can’t move public opinion,” Harrison said. “We can’t physically change people’s minds.”