Activist/student/minister T.J. Williams and fiance Brad Hauger are looking forward to getting married, and are also looking forward to spreading their message of equality. The couple is engaging in a series of events that will lead to their wedding next year in New York Cityevents that they hope will advance the fight for equal rights and unity.
Windy City Times: First of all, how did you two meet?
T.J. Williams: We met at an HRC [ Human Rights Campaign ] dinner in 2004; I was attending with a friend. He was looking quite finethe striking blue eyes and the suit. We flirted and exchanged phone numbersand didn't talk again until 2005.
About three years later, he proposed in Terre Haute, Ind., at his mother's house; we had to get oxygen for her. [ Laughs ] Actually, his whole family has been absolutely wonderful.
WCT: Let's talk about the trip: It's like a wedding that's also a statement.
T.J. Williams: Yes. Since we're doing it at Riverside Church, we wanted to honor the sacred space. Also, since we had the privilege to hear services by Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and Father [ Michael ] Pfleger, we're going to allow people to talk about LGBT activism.
WCT: When is the send-off happening?
T.J. Williams: Well, we've postponed the wedding until next year, and we're going to spread the journey throughout the year. The journey will start Dec. 1 at Riverside.
We're going to use the dates to connect with the civil-rights movement. Dec. 1 was the date that Rosa Parks refused to sit in the back of the bus. We're doing a march in Montgomery, Ala., and a service in Atlanta, Ga.
We're then moving on to another service, probably in Atlanta also, in February. This leads up to next August, and another event in August. It will all end in New York City in August 2011.
The trip is about connecting the civil-rights story with the LGBT story.
WCT: There are some people who say there really is no connection between those two stories. How do you respond to them?
T.J. Williams: I think that [ Senior Minister of Lemuel Haynes Congregational Church ] Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou, who I met many years ago, is amazing. He once said that if people's civil rights are being denied, it sounds like queer folks to him. There are fundamentalists who are doing the same thing to queer folks that were done to ethnic minorities, such as being denied rights and [ recognition ] .
WCT: Is there anything else you wanted to say?
T.J. Williams: Brad and I want to do this because of our love for the civil-rights leaders, and because we want to see the LGBTQI community honor its own stories and partner with [ these leaders ] . When the gay and lesbian community has obtained marriage and equal rights, we want a continued partnership with the LGBTQI community and the Black and Latino communities.
When there's a new president who is not loving like Obama, we want to be able to say, "You will not send us back to the 1960s."
See www.pilgrimagetoriverside.com .