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The Cypress Project

Jim Burroway

August 9th, 2006

Yesterday, I wrote about the apparent exodus of gays and lesbians from Virginia. Fortunately, there is a flip side to that story.

The Washington Post published an article about the shocking vandalism to Heyward Drummond and John Ellis’s home in Aldie, Virginia. More than 170 trees and boxwoods were either ripped out of the ground or cut down, the word “FAG” was spraypainted on the driveway, mailbox, fence, and on the street in front of their home, and gasoline was poured on the lawn in a trail leading up to the front door.

A local gay-rights activist noted that the intended message behind this vandalism was clear: Get out! And many are heeding that warning. But others, including Heyward Drummond and John Ellis have another message: “I live here, and I’m out and I don’t believe in hiding.”

A local group has formed to offer a similar response:

We believe that the best way to respond to such a hateful act is to transform it into its opposite: a project that brings a broken community together and leaves it stronger than it was before.

The Cypress Project was formed to bring the community together,”in the restoration of not only Heyward and John’s property, but their sense of safety as well.” On Saturday, October 14, 2006, they will work to help Heyward and John replace the trees that were cut down.

I think this is a wonderful idea. And once those trees are restored, I hope the Cypress Project doesn’t go away. It seems that with the rising tide of violence and vandalism that often comes with gay marriage debates, their work will be needed all the more.

When the Soulforce Equality Ride stopped at Lee University, a Pentecostal school in Cleveland, Tennessee, their bus was vandalized with anti-gay graffiti. Several students from the university came by to offer consolation and to help clean up the damage. Alexey Bulokhov, a rider, observed, “The act of defacing our bus was a symbolic gesture by some Cleveland residents. So was the act of others volunteering to clean it up.”

The Cypress project can be a similar opportunity for everyone, regardless of personal political or religious perspectives, to come together and say no to hate.

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