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Gay slur written on car starts nationwide campaign
By Sara Faiwell | Daily Herald Staff

Erin Davies speaks at Harper College about her experience traveling the country with her VW bug that was vandalized. It happened while she was living in Albany, New York.


Mark Black | Staff Photographer

Harper College students check out Erin Davies' car that was the target of a hate crime.


Mark Black | Staff Photographer

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Published: 10/18/2007 12:13 AM

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A hate crime against a grad student in New York has turned into a nationwide educational effort on homophobia.

Erin Davies -- with her vandalized Volkswagen Beetle -- stopped at Harper College in Palatine Wednesday to share her story with students.

In April, someone wrote "u r gay," along with a derogatory term, in red spray paint on the hood and driver side of her car.

At first, Davies was shocked, embarrassed and hurt by it.

After talking to friends, though, she decided to leave the words on her car to make a statement.

Davies, 29, then launched a 58-day tour around the U.S. and Canada.

Now that the official tour is over, she's visiting college campuses across the country to continue spreading the message. She's also working on a documentary of her journey.

"My first reaction was to cover it up," she said. "But if you don't see things like this, you never know it's a problem."

Davies' stories about her time on the road are endless. The photos of her journey -- which can be found on her MySpace site -- tell it all.

While many people along the way have embraced her by offering money and free stuff and snapping photos of the car, she has opponents. Some have accused her of making the whole thing up to get attention.

People have tried to scrub, scrape and pick off the slurs, too.

Davies isn't attending college anymore and instead is focusing full-time on this mission. Even though people are buying T-shirts, stickers and other memorabilia to support her, she says that mostly covers the cost of her travel.

"As a person she's really expressed herself," said Patty York, a Harper student from Elk Grove Village. "It takes a lot of guts."

Davies' talk at Harper is in conjunction with the third annual Ally Week, sponsored by an alliance of straight, gay and bisexual students.

Her goal is to get 1 million people to add rainbow stickers she's created to their cars.