KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A University of Tennessee student said he decided to fight back against hate and post more rainbow “yarn bombs” on Monday, after the first one he made was torn down last week.
In honor of Pride Month, Ph.D. student Ace Beorchia, an LGBTQ+ ally, wanted to take part in the #loveacrosstheusa challenge and post rainbow yarn bombs around campus.
Yarn bombs are essentially graffiti artwork made out of yarn. Beorchia crochets, so he felt that this was something he wanted to show his support of the LGBTQ+ community.
“It was something I can do to show support. Something small, but hopefully something that can brighten someone’s day,” Beorchia said.
He said it was important for him to show the LBGTQ+ community they had allies on a campus he said after he learned the UT campus wasn’t so LGBTQ+ friendly.
“So at this training I went to with the Pride Center (last year), that’s where I learned that the University of Tennessee is the second-least friendly campus towards LGBTQ plus community in the entire nation,” Beorchia said.
Beorchia said he then did more research, and found another ranking online that gave UT a two out of five when it comes to LGBTQ+ support and safety. He had heard about past vandalisms at the former location of UT’s Pride Center, but he had never witnessed animosity towards the LGBTQ+ personally.
That changed on June 2, when he posted his first ‘love’ yarn bomb on Melrose Avenue near the Golden Roast. Beorchia said people harassed him as they drove by while he was hanging the yarn graffiti up. After that, he wasn’t surprised what happened next.
“Well, the next day when I walked by, early in the morning, it had been completely destroyed. Vandalized. Torn apart. But luckily, it had gotten stuck on something on the pole and so they couldn’t take it down completely,” Beorchia said.
“It just made clear to me how negative of a climate we do have here at the University of Tennessee. It was the first thing that I personally have visually seen. When I saw that people would go out of their way to tear down something as innocent as a yarn bomb that says ‘love,'” Beorchia added.
Beorchia said he felt depleted at first, but then realized with the flag not completely torn down he had a chance to spread the word and gain more allies for the LGBTQ community.
“Love will win. We can’t be defeated that easily. And that we are a strong community and there’s people in our community who do care and really won’t stand for these hateful acts,” Beorchia said.
He posted the before and after photos on social media, which reached Kelsey Ball, a local crochet vendor who also supports the LGBTQ community.
“One of my friends had tagged me in that post and I saw it and I knew what I had to do. I knew we had to put up more and that’s how we got together in the first place,” Ball said.
Ball helped Beorchia post more yarn bombs Monday morning. Besides making a lot of pride-friendly clothing, it was the first time she showed support in a bigger way.
“I hope that anyone that feels the need to tear one of these down or you know, have any negative emotion towards them will just maybe choose to approach it with an open mind next time instead. Have a little bit of love in their heart,” Ball said.
Beorchia said the fact that the message made it’s way to Ball, and it empowered her to want to help was exactly what the #loveacrosstheusa campaign was meant to do. Now, he just hopes changes can happen on all levels at the university: from the students to the administration.
“Inclusivity is important. Safety is important. And we need to find the beauty and diversity, especially here at the University of Tennessee,” Beorchia said.
To be clear, the first yarn bomb that was torn down was not on campus. WATE 6 On Your Side reached out to UT leaders about how they are making campus more LGBTQ+ friendly.
A spokesperson replied with this statement:
“UT has numerous activities, groups, and resources — including those for LGBTQ+ students — to connect, find community, and feel valued and supported.”Owen Driskell, UT spokesperson
Beorchia said he plans to post more yarn bombs in the coming days, including on campus.
Driskell said the university would help keep on eye on the artwork posted on campus.