Former Three Rivers Middle School teacher Russell Ball joins Keep Your Voice Down to talk about his recent resignation after Three Rivers Community Schools staff were asked to remove Pride flags from their classrooms due to an “external challenge.” Ball details the events leading up to his exit, what the flag represents to members of the LGBTQIA+ community, and why the flags should remain in classrooms not only in Three Rivers but around the world.

At the top of this week’s episode Alek and Doug address Monday’s troubling news that teachers within the Three Rivers Community Schools system were asked to remove Pride flags in their classrooms in response to an “external challenge” by an unidentified party.   

The hosts of Keep Your Voice Down are also joined by Sarah Lee, Director of Marketing Communications at the Kalamazoo Community Foundation. The trio discusses Sarah’s role at KZCF, her upbringing in Malaysia and how she became deeply rooted in Kalamazoo, the importance of being “equity-minded” when addressing matters of social and racial injustice, the foundation’s efforts to support local journalism, and the story behind the formation of the Southwest Michigan Journalism Collaborative.

After a student-led Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) club at Whitehall High School sent out an email to the student body that included resources about sexuality and identity during Pride week, that kickstarted an often-heated conversation in the small West Michigan community about where the line is between schools and families in talking about LGBTQ issues.

Friend of Watershed Voice, Emme Zanotti, on Pride: “And that’s what the first Pride was. It was a revolution fueled by the fire of Black trans women and trans Latinas. A revolution generated by the kind of spark and passion that can only exist in the hearts and minds of people on the receiving end of an oppressive force so strong that it’s quite literally costing them their lives. The First Pride was a language of the unheard, to paraphrase Dr. King.

“And through it all, we (white people, yes the gay and trans ones too) tried not to uplift the voices and stories of Black and Brown people, but rather we tried to silence them. For decades we erased their memory from the origin story of Pride. We erased their faces from our dining room tables, and we erased their experiences and wisdom from our decision making tables. The people who have given the most to our cause haven been rewarded the least. I’ll repeat. The people who have given the most to our cause have been rewarded the least.”