Family Reunion Celebrates Acceptance Journeys Campaign

November 23, 2013

Milwaukee – On Thursday night Diverse & Resilient gathered friends of the Acceptance Journeys program to celebrate the achievements of this social marketing campaign aimed at improving the health of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in Wisconsin by advancing acceptance of LGBT people.

The Acceptance Journeys campaign uses billboards, bus ads, public presentations, and story cards to share real stories of family members and friends accepting LGBT loved ones in their lives.  These individuals have shared their stories publicly to serve as a model for other straight people making their own journeys of acceptance.

A group of Acceptance Journeys participants including Representative Sandy Pasch, Pastor Kenneth Wheeler, and many other community members, gathered at the Zilber School of Public Health to reunite and celebrate.  They were surrounded by an exhibit of large-scale images from the campaign featuring portraits of LGBT people pictured with family members, pastors, or friends.

“I won’t tolerate the word tolerance,” said Representative Pasch to the assembled group.  “Tolerance is not enough – we are aiming for full acceptance of LGBT people.”  Pasch appeared on a story card with her son, who is gay.

The billboard campaign that was launched one year ago presents messages that have evolved over time in step with a community that is evolving its own views of LGBT people.  The newest billboard will go live on Thanksgiving Day across Milwaukee with a message that echoes Pasch’s comments: “Acceptance means no strings attached.”

Ciera McKissick is the Acceptance Journeys Coordinator at Diverse & Resilient.  “A huge amount of research has gone into this campaign,” she explained.  “The billboard slogans are designed to move just one small step beyond where the community stands in its views of LGBT people.  With each round of messages, we take one step further.  It will be an exciting day when we are ready to present a billboard that says ‘I accept my gay son.’  We’re not there yet, but we will get there.”

Brenda Coley, Director of Special Programs at Diverse & Resilient, acknowledged the debt of gratitude owed toward the people pictured in Acceptance Journeys campaign materials.  “This campaign would not have been possible without each of you.  You have agreed to be seen standing up for what you believe in.  You are leaders in your communities, and people will look to you and follow your lead.”

The campaign is effective because of the power of straight people acting as models for others in their communities.  In the year since Acceptance Journeys launched, change is already visible.

“People in our focus groups are saying different things today than they were saying when we first started surveying the community,” said McKissick.  “We can see attitudes changing and people becoming more accepting.”

Those changing attitudes have real effects on LGBT people in Wisconsin.  “Acceptance is at the crux of our health,” said Gary Hollander, PhD, President & CEO of Diverse & Resilient.  “At the root level of all of the health disparities experienced by the LGBT community is the issue of anti-LGBT discrimination.  Working toward acceptance advances our community’s health in a very real way.  That’s what this work is about.”

The Milwaukee Public Television program, Black Nouveau, aired an episode about Acceptance Journeys earlier this year.  The segment and its producer Everett L. Marshburn were awarded the 2013 Salute to Excellence Award by the National Association of Black Journalists.  Marshburn presented the award to Diverse & Resilient at the Family Reunion on Thursday evening.

The Acceptance Journeys exhibit will be on-display at the Zilber School of Public Health for the next four months.  The exhibit is installed in the first floor lobby and on the second floor.