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Festival of Love: LGBTQ support and festivities across campus

by Kiara Alfonseca - STAFF WRITER
Tue, Oct 10th 2017 08:55 pm

 

Students marched through the streets in rainbow garb and bright signs to finish off the Festival of Love with the Pride Parade. Festival of Love, the new series of events,  was pioneered by Resident Assistant Shaquan Harris and backed by the Office of Residential Life to encourage dialogue and education on LGBTQ topics during National LGBTQ History Month. 

More importantly, it reminded students at The College at Brockport of the support and stories that are abound on campus, even after National LGBTQ History Month is over and these events conclude. 

LGBTQ History Month is nothing new. First celebrated nationally in 1994, October offers a month-long platform to educate and spread awareness of LGBTQ history and narratives.

“The Festival of Love was an event that I created as a reminder of how far I’ve come along my own journey — from being unable to look at myself in the mirror to waving a Pride flag outside while singing to Lady Gaga’s ‘Born This Way,’ Harris wrote in an email. “It was a celebration of the new love I have for myself and the love I strive to share with others every day.”

The celebration of pride isn’t over; Brockport Pride Association, formerly known as Sexual Orientations United for Liberation or S.O.U.L., is in the midst of hosting its own set of events this week in celebration of National Coming Out Week. 

On Monday, Oct. 9, through Friday, Oct. 13, the club will host a different Pride event from noon to 2 p.m. in the Seymour College Union Main Lounge. On Wednesday, Oct. 11, National Coming Out Day, the Coming Out Day Party will go until 2:30 in the lounge as well. 

Those working on the Festival of Love, such as Harris and Senior Resident Director Devin Bonner, hope to see the Festival of Love stick around. As an annual event, it would serve as a new tradition  and reminder, representing the support and resources on the Brockport campus. 

The opening event, Prism Palooza, was a success. Over 100 students joined in the face painting, tie-dyeing and celebration of the coming week. 

Reflecting on the success of the week’s activities, participants and creators alike focus on the positive feedback for the future. 

“I want the Festival to be something that people look forward to, a time where people can look back and say, ‘I got something out of that,’” Harris wrote. 

The implementation of the Festival of Love is just one way in which the campus and its various offices can show their support and acknowledgement. 

The experiences at these events offer plenty to gain, but some think there is more allies, students and the college can do to ensure a continually progressing environment. 

“For allies, be open to education and having difficult conversations even if you’re unsure,” Bonner said. “I’ve never engaged with someone where I thought they’re stupid. When confrontation happens around this topic it’s because one person has a closed mind and isn’t listening to someone within the community.”

Harris would like to see the campus be more active as well, offering thoughts on solutions to this problem including a potential art piece to symbolize that support, or a nod to LGBTQ topics through education and curriculum. 

“Brockport’s Pride Association should not bear the burden to be the primary, if not the only group that makes a consistent effort to enact programming to support the LGBTQ+ community,” Harris wrote. “What if our next summer reading book was written by a transgender person or boldly tackled LGBTQ+ issues?”

Local resources, on and off campus, are facets of the support system for LGBTQ students, including the Brockport Pride Association. It’s an “intersectional service club that uses activism and education to bring awareness to LGBTQ communities and issues on and off campus,” according to my.brockport.edu.

Bonner recommends plenty of potential on-campus locations students can go to. With Safe Zone-trained leaders in Residential Life and Hazen Counseling Center for Integrated Care, employees of these departments are given new insights and understandings in how to create supportive environments for LGBTQ students. 

There is also a support group on campus, the Sexual Orientation Support Group on Thursdays at 3:30 to 5 p.m., led by Pride Association’s faculty advisor Frank Noll in Hazen.

For more activities throughout the year, check in with Brockport Pride Alliance on its myBROCKPORT page for details on upcoming events. 

For those looking to become Safe Zone certified, to expand one’s own knowledge and abilities in their advocacy for LGBTQ rights and equality, the next trainings will be for students on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 10 a.m. to noon in Union room B116, for faculty on Wednesday, Oct. 27, 1 to 3 p.m. in  Union room 220, and for students again on Friday, Nov. 3, 3 to 5 p.m. Union room 220. 

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