In the Spotlight: Diverse Groups Unite for Pride

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By Chelsie Sluyk, staff writer for the University Community Service Center Newsletter

It's spring in Chicago, and that means humid April showers are beginning to project rainbows across the city. The University of Chicago was one of the earlier communities to launch their spring Queer Pride festivities last Thursday with a sea of pink T-shirts that shouted, "I'm [fill in your identity] and I'm proud!," This year's Pride Week, taking place between April 16-24, will culminate this Saturday with a drag and genderqueering ball which, according to their website, promises to be a "thrilling climax."

According to co-organizer Nicholas Cassleman (BS '13), Pride Week had three main goals: to help inspire unity, raise awareness, and provide fuel for conversation.

Last Thursday's loud pink T-shirt distribution was followed on Friday by a day of silence and a vigil to raise awareness of ongoing anti-LGBTQ violence and harassment. Over the last week, students have participated in events ranging from RuPaul's Drag Race Marathon on the Quad to Rapid HIV testing and a discussion with Cathy Cohen on the importance of forming queer coalitions.

Students also went out into the community to participate in the Spring Quarter Day of Service. Eight students formed a Pride group and joined up with Community Service RSO WYSE (Women and Youth Supporting Eachother) to clean and spread wood chips at Ogden Park in Englewood.

"We wanted to reach out to as many kinds of people as we could," Cassleman said. "By having this variety, we hope to link together important ideas and the ways they can be expressed in ways that are accessible to many."

The goal of Pride Week is to be inclusive, and many of the events addressed issues that crossed over boundries between marginalized groups. Thursday night, as part of an event put on by the Organization of Black Students and Queers and Associates, students gathered at 5710 S
Woodlawn to discuss how race, class, religion and other identities intersect with queer identities.

The evening began with a performance by About Face Theater, a group that travels to high schools across the city to perform short plays about race, gender and identity issues. Afterward, as the floor opened for discussion, students asked questions like, "What does it mean to be a diverse university community if people don't engage with one another and discuss these important issues?" and "What are positive and productive ways to bring LGBTQ and race issues to light and talk about them with friends and classmates?"

"It's exciting to talk about queer people of color," said Malik White, a participant at Thursday's event, "They're so often pushed out of view."

While these issues will remain hot topics on campus, Pride Week's celebration will come to a close with Saturday's genderqueering ball. The event, featuring a drag show and music by Chicago-based Earth Tone DJs, starts at 9pm on the Third floor of Ida Noyes. It is open to
everyone, and will be followed by an afterparty entitled Last Night in Babylon.

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