Established 1885

The Washburn Review

Established 1885

The Washburn Review

Established 1885

The Washburn Review

Activist Davis Hammet speaks on the Topeka Equality House

Every year, Washburn University honors Kansas’ birthday by having a guest speaker come to campus. This year, the speaker was Davis Hammet, activist and founder of Loud Light.

On Jan. 29, 2024, about 30 members of the Topeka community gathered in the Shawnee room of the Memorial Union to listen to Hammet speak. When conversing with each other, people mentioned wanting to be inspired by his words.

Hammet first came to Topeka in 2013 when he was working for an organization called Planting Peace. They made a plan to paint a house rainbow as a statement of activism supporting gay rights. The house is located directly across from the Westboro Baptist Church, which is known for being against gay rights.

When recounting the interaction he had, learning about the Equality House project, Hammet received laughter from the crowd because of what a strange request it was.

“The executive director of that organization approached me and he said ‘Hey, are you down to go to Kansas and paint a house rainbow?’,” Hammet said.

After living across the street from the Westboro Baptist Church, Hammet changed his perspective on how he viewed the group.

“I also saw the family members of the church, and I started to have this weird feeling because they’re walking with their kids and laughing,” Hammet said. “They’re not monsters. They’re people that do these terrible things and say these terrible things, but they’re also normal people who do loving things”.

Hammet recalls the day that the house was getting painted.

“Traffic just started stopping, and people started getting out. That day we had hundreds and hundreds come. Some of them were laughing; some of them were crying because of how much it meant to them,” Hammet said. “We had done this really simple, small act of just putting paint on a building, but it was having such a profound impact on people.”

Soon after, Hammet started learning about the Topeka Center for Peace and Justice and the issues they deal with in the community. This opened him up to the local issues and the current ways of advocating to fix those.

In 2015, Hammet founded an organization called Loud Light. Laura Murphy, associate professor of anthropology, read the mission statement of the organization for the audience members who were unaware of its duties and intent.

“‘Loud Light engages, educates and empowers individuals from underrepresented populations to build community power that has an impact on decision makers’,” Murphy said.

Loud Light’s Advocacy Director, Melissa Stiehler, mentions the poor early voting access and how that is something the organization is working towards. When addressing the crowd, she also mentioned how the audience could contribute to the issue by making their voices heard.

“Shawnee County has terrible early voting access, some of the worst in the entire state. But really the ultimate decision on early voting access is up to Shawnee County Election Commissioner Andrew Howell,” Stiehler said. “So, if you hypothetically wanted to give him a call […] you could do that.”

After his speech, Hammet opened the floor to questions. Overall, Hammet was pleased he could share his story with Washburn, especially on the day of Kansas’ birthday, since this state has become very important to him in the last decade.

“I think this weird experience explains what I love so much about Kansas, which is that even in this chaos and violence, in unexpected ways people end up coming together,” Hammet said.

To learn more about activism, students can go to the website for Loud Light and join their mailing list.

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Jayme Thompson, Editor
Hey everyone, I'm Jayme! I am a senior pursuing a double major of psychology and forensic investigations. Even though it's not tied to either of my majors, I joined Student Media because of my appreciation for journalism and the people in the field. I work as a content creator and copy editor. After graduating, I plan to pursue a graduate degree in forensic science and a job within that career field.
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