SAGA raises awareness, money


Jordan Auker

SAGA founder Blaine Halford talks about his experience being a member of the LGBT community in Evansville has differed from his experience living in Louisiana.

Blaine Halford is no activist, but he said it’s important for people to be aware of bullying against those in the LGBT community.

Halford, a freshman computer science major, along with members of the Sexuality and Gender Alliance (SAGA) and Students for Gender Violence Awareness (SFGVA) helped raise $170 from selling artwork at the International Day of Silence silent auction in Carter Hall this past Wednesday.

The International Day of Silence is actually April 21, but the event was held Wednesday to gather more participation. The day is meant to bring awareness to the effects of anti-LGBT bullying.

SAGA President Kayla Dick said eight of the 12 paintings, digital prints and drawings were sold and 12 percent of proceeds were donated to the Trevor Project, a crisis line primarily for LGBT individuals.

Halford, who is from a town south of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, said Evansville treats the LGBT community differently than his home town.

“(Evansville) is an extremely accepting place,” he said. “Its one of the major reasons I enjoy being here. The people are kind. They are caring.”

Halford is the founder of SAGA. He said he started the group after realizing there wasn’t an LGBT group on campus.

“I went to complain and before I could actually complain, they asked me ‘how would you be interested in actually starting one and I said ‘sure,’” he said. “We needed one.”

Members from SAGA and SFGVA were joined by representatives from the Tri-State Alliance (TSA), “a primary social service and educational organization that serves the diverse gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities of Southwestern Indiana,” according to the organization’s website.

The event also featured a speech from TSA President Wally Paynter, who said LGBT bullying has become a major problem in Evansville.

Paynter mentioned the death of Central High School student Roman Kellough, who fatally shot himself outside of the school in early January.

Paynter said the TSA sent over 100 letters to the Vanderburgh County Superintendent David Smith demanding that he recognize Kellough’s death as a consequence of LGBT bullying.

“Our goal is to raise pressure,” he said. “We need to make sure that they know this won’t go away.”