I had the wonderful opportunity to discuss what pro-life activism means to two incredible students leaders: Melanie Salazar and Jerry Sharp. This pro-life power couple knows what it means to stand up for what you believe in, even in the face of adversity, and to do so in a style that speaks! In the interview you'll find below, we cover a variety of topics on the lives of these activists, to truly understand what it takes to be a voice for the voiceless. I really appreciate their time and am so grateful to call Melanie and Jerry two of my greatest friends!
Why are you both pro-life activists?
M: I am a pro-life activist because I am a passionate person who wants to put her passion towards the greatest injustice of our time. In the past, I have given of myself to helping fight against domestic violence, fight hunger in homelessness, help to protect the environment, and help to mentor at-risk children. However, though all these things are good, it just makes the most sense to put my passion towards the greatest injustice—the killing of the weak and defenseless and the degradation of women.
J: I'm a Pro-Life activist because of the atrocity that is what abortion is. as well as every other issue that is related to it! The dangerous ideology in deeming someone as less than human or using free will to kill innocent life, justifying it as a solution to many of the world's problems is unacceptable to me.
You are involved in UTSA's Students for Life club. What roles do you both play in that and what motivates you to stay active on campus?
M: I am going on my second year at the club's president. Before joining the club, I was always a person who was content with being just an active member and not having a leadership role. Since joining the club, I was soon asked to step up to lead the club in order to keep it alive. I was willing to step up as president because I had seen the culture of death on my campus and I knew there had to be a voice and face for life.
J: I consider myself logistic support in whatever the club's needs are. If an officer is needing assistance or has too much to handle and they ask for helpI am there to assist in anyway I can (work schedule permitting)! Also, I am intentional in the success of this club because my Alma mater is becoming more hostile of an environment to differing opinions, and I genuinely see this as the beginning of attempts to drown out issues by others that are controversial or conservative in nature.
What are the biggest challenges you face on campus as student activists?
M: There is a Students United for Planned Parenthood club, Young Democratic Socialist club, Secular Student Alliance club, and a group called Change Rape Culture who have all treated us unkindly in one way or another. Meanwhile, we aim to have peaceful and productive dialogue. Also, the school has given us push back on several occasions either in taking long to approved events or completely denying events although they were completely constitutionally protected.
I think another big thing is lack between partnership from other organizations out of fear of being political and controversial. We as an organization have tried time and time again to work with the Catholic Student Association, yet they are surprisingly not eager to work with us. There are no so called "Christian" organizations who have been truly intentional in wanting to work together. These instances are very disheartening and discouraging.
J: Definitely what seems to be like "alienation" of sorts. I'm sure Melanie can speak more on this but I too lost so many people I once worked closely with and considered "friends" but once my proud position became known I remember "losing" a majority of those folks simply for the fact of one issue.
Why do you think it is important to promote an anti-abortion, pro-woman culture on college campuses?
M: I believe it is important to promote this culture on campus because the most empowering thing I can be told as a woman is that I can go to school, I can get my education, and I can have my baby. Saying that a woman CAN rather than CANNOT just naturally seems more empowering to me.
J: Easy, because even as young adult we are flooded with ideologies and culture and I believe that there is an ever growing culture of individualism and Independence that has evolved into unfortunately an entitlement and absence of responsibility style of thinking that is unhealthy for society.
It definitely takes a bold individual to wear their controversial view on their sleeve. Going more into the difficulties of being boldly pro-life, it's safe to say you both are shining examples of pro-lifers who don't mind some opposition. What kind of response did you get when you wore your Life Dress, Melanie? And did you get any comments on your Life Dress Tie, Jerry?
M: I have worn my Life Dress for my own birthday celebration, to benefit/fundraising dinners, a conservative conference, and to a memorial service for aborted children. I have only ever received compliments while wearing the dress. Perhaps I should try wearing it to campus? J: Of course, the shade of blue really stands out especially against a white dress shirt. I have received compliments but only during the few times I wore it at benefit/fundraising dinners for local pregnancy centers.
In what ways do you believe Life Dress is important for the pro-life movement?
M: I believe Life Dress is important for the pro-life movement because these articles of clothing are not your average pro-life t-shirts. These are articles of clothing with designs that make a statement for LIFE. Definitely a dress with a pro-life saying may turn more heads and create more conversations than a t-shirt. J: It showcases who we are as the Pro-Life generation and let's us stand out and face those that disagree and are misinformed about the science and facts.
The focus of Life Dress is to wear "styles that speak"- basically the idea that we as activists can dress in what we believe and start conversations without ever verbally initiating them. As strong advocates who frequently engage in dialogue, do you find this concept of art speaking louder than words helpful?
J: Yes absolutely, communication is also an art form, so it just makes sense in spreading our message of love and support through any means or media necessary.
What parting advice can you give to someone out there who may be unsure about stepping out of their comfort zone, putting on a Life Dress item, and walking out into an oppositional world?
M: Insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results, so by switching up your attire and by wearing a Life Dress item you are bound to have more people thinking about the pro-life message. You will only regret the chances you didn't take, the conversations you didn't have, and the Life Dress item you didn't wear.
J: I find that most of my dialoguing is started by simply complementing on the attire of others walking by. Find your community, seek the truth, do your research on the subject matter and understand one thing, you are on the side of history and fighting not only for others and the unborn but reaffirming that humans value life and reject ideologies that bring forth the worst of humanity and exception.
Anything else either of you want to share?
M: As a Co-State Squad Captain for Students For Life Action, I myself had to step out of my comfort zone and into unfamiliar territory—policy and lobbying. I am so glad that I did, because I was able to testify at my state's capitol and be a voice for the voiceless. Ever since I joined the pro-life club at my school a couple of years ago, doors have continued to open for me and I have been given opportunities to make an impact in ways I never thought I could. All this stems from my passion and my basic belief that life begins at conception and abortion takes an innocent life, so I want put my energy towards abolishing the greatest injustice of our time: the killing of the weak and defenseless and the belief that women cannot have their baby and achieve their dreams.
J: Befriend everyone, increase your circles, join other clubs, run for Student Government, just network in general because it'll payoff with connections in various places and give you potential access to many resources you never thought you might have.
Thank you both for talking with me today and for being inspirational for anyone out there who is considering dedicating their life to helping end abortion! This is what this movement is all about- changing, healing, and saving life. The stories of those who wear Life Dress apparel need to be heard. This can inspire others to join in wearing styles that speak, which can intitate more conversations, change more minds, and move more hearts.