This week, Springfield College student group PAWS (Peer-Administered Wellness) is hosting the College’s first-ever “NOH8 Campaign” event.
The campaign for equal rights was first started in response to the 2008 passing of Proposition 8, a law that made gay marriage illegal in California. Though the law was repealed in 2010, “NOH8” still remains as a well-known form of silent protest using photography that has attracted the faces of celebrities, politicians, and other well-known public figures. Now the campaign has found its way to Alden Street.
“Normally the official NOH8 campaign events and photo shoots are done with their own photographer,” said junior Erin Womboldt, a member of PAWS who was involved in the planning and information-gathering processes for this event. “We have been granted permission to do our own.”
Womboldt said PAWS students got in contact with members of the official campaign after the idea of holding a photo shoot was brought up at a PAWS meeting. The group was granted permission to hold their own event, and after the photo shoot at Springfield is over, the students will send the campaign a formal write-up about the event that was held, including how many people participated.
As of early Tuesday afternoon, over 30 students had their pictures taken in the campus Union Dodge rooms. Students wearing white t-shirts with “NOH8” painted on their faces posed either by themselves or with friends against a white background, duct tape over their mouths to represent the silent protest. PAWS members said that they allied with several other student groups in order to spark student participation on Tuesday, and they are hoping for more involvement from the student body, including athletic teams, during the second half of the event that takes place today. Today’s photo shoot will be held between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. in Dodge Rooms C, D, and E.
“Our main goal is to spread education about how to better create equal rights in our campus on its own,” Womboldt said. “Start here, and then everyone can spread [the message] out to where they extend to.”
Dani Iorfino, a senior supervisor in PAWS who has been one of the group’s members for three years, is the event’s photographer. As someone who grew up in a studio and has a passion for photography, this was a chance to use her talents for a good cause.
“Photography is my life, so this campaign is great because they use photography as a silent protest,” Iorfino said. “I think [NOH8’s] message is phenomenal. I think human equality is probably the most important message to get out because everyone is an equal, whether they’re young or different ages, different sexes or sexualities, or races.”
After the event is over, students hope to create a mural out of the pictures, which they will display around campus. Womboldt said she hopes this will help create awareness that students will use in their lives beyond the College’s campus.
“I think Springfield College is a very good diverse community,” said Womboldt, “and from what I’ve experienced as a student here, it’s very open to differences. Springfield is known throughout many different fields and I think that just starting this here could really spread awareness out into those larger communities.”
Even though the event is only in it’s first year at the College, Iorfino is hoping that “NOH8” is something that will gain more of a following in the coming years.
“I hope it’s something that could grow into something bigger,” Iorfino said, “and maybe we could actually have the celebrity photographer Adam Bouska come and photograph the event. Maybe we could hold something in Springfield that would not only encompass the College, but also the community.”