Leading through hope


Dustin Lance Black, the writer of the Academy Award winning movie “Milk” said we’re on the verge of making history.

And Black doesn’t just come to any school or place of business to say that either.

He hand-selects schools from the areas and states that he thinks need to hear his message the most. 

What does Oakland University need the most exactly?

Black says it needs the power of personal story.

The power of personal story was the main topic of discussion in front of an audience of 300, comprised of OU students, faculty members and guests last week. 

Black said personal story can change society.

“We can change this country, change this nation and change this world,” Black said. “Where we no longer leave one of our brothers or sisters behind, no matter the color of their skin, the god they pray to or who they love.”

Black’s own personal story includes being raised Mormon in Texas, coming out in California and fighting for equality everywhere.

While he lived in Texas, Black was raised, witnessing the power of fear. For example, he remembers sitting in Sunday Service and hearing former President of the LDS Church, Spencer W. Kimball say, “Homosexuality is sin. Next to the crime of murder comes this sin of sexual impurity.”

After Black realized he was gay, he was unsure about what to do with his life, and then he heard a speech given by Harvey Milk, the first openly gay person elected to public office. 

The speech taught Black that one can lead through the power of hope.

Milk inspired Black, and Black brought some of that inspiration to his audience.

“He has an incredibly moving story,” said the Rev. Jody Betten of the United Church of Christ.

“We can either stand with him, or be quiet,” said Miranda Divozzo, the head of Student Life Lecture Board, the group that brought Black to the university.

Black also was able to relate his personal story to Michigan.

Black’s brother was a homosexual, and he lived in states that didn’t accept his sexuality as much as a state like California.

According to Black, his brother died before he could see the states he lived in become as equal as they could become.

Michigan is one of those states.

People don’t realize you can still be fired or denied service,” said Becca Reichenbach, president of OU’s Gay Straight Alliance.

“The way he was able to tie his story in to Michigan was amazing,” said Jean Ann Miller, Center for Student Activities director.

Black stressed that one didn’t have to be gay to have the power of personal story. Anyone has the ability to share their experiences.

“For me it’s what brought you to a conclusion where you feel like equality is important,” Black said.

“Get out there and tell your personal stories,” said Black. “For the sake of all minorities. United we cannot be defeated.”