Recently, The Equality House has caused a lot of commotion in Topeka, and for a good reason.
Located across the street from one of the most hateful churches in the world, the house has become a symbol of peace, equality and community in a short period of time.
I have lived in or near Topeka for my entire life, (though I lived in Arizona for a year), and this is the most positive reaction to the Phelps and their hatred that I have ever seen. And believe me, I have seen many people retaliate and have myself, on occasion, screamed out at the picketers for them to “go back to school, and get a life!” among other not-so-nice comments. Every time this happens all we are doing is fighting hate with hate and I have longed for a way to fight hate with love. The Equality House is the perfect answer for this longing, and I think many Topekans could agree.
For those of us that have lived in this city and traveled to others, we know that people tend to group everyone that lives in Topeka with the Phelps and their lifestyle views. I have personally changed the minds of many Arizonians in my short time I lived there. I have had people ask me if I “was one of those fag-haters,” and I was appalled. At first I was angry that I was lumped into this group I detested, but I had to remind myself that people didn’t know any better and they had never been here. Many times I have had to express my own beliefs and then explain what the Westboro Baptist Church is and that it’s just a small group of people in the town who feel this way.
Now, I feel like the rainbow house speaks for us. It is a way to show the nation that Topeka isn’t full of bigots we are not all a part of the WBC. We want to fight for equality, community and empowerment.
The house isn’t only a symbol it’s a working non-profit organization called Planting Peace and the rainbow house isn’t its only endeavor. By visiting their website, plantingPeace.org you can see that they have tree planting programs, tropical rainforest preservation, sponsoring for orphans and orphanages among many other things. They have also gotten involved locally in Topeka with ArtsConnect and Women’s Empowerment Group, to name a couple.
The house even has a welcome sign on the lawn inviting people to take pictures or come talk to the owners. Every time I drive by, there are people standing out front or driving by taking pictures. I have become obsessed with following them because for years I have wanted to find a positive way to fight the negative vibes. If you’ve ever read The Big Orange Splotch you will know what I mean when I say I hope this trend continues down the block. Wouldn’t that be somethin’?