Photo by Emily Perry
Pride is a time where those in the LGBTQ+ community can come together and celebrate their love and who they are. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic still ongoing and with many events canceled, those who wanted to celebrate pride are sadly staying home.
Pride is incredibly special here at SOU, with numerous events planned throughout the year and multiple resources open to all students. Reese Lanier, a freshman and the Event Coordinator for the Social Justice and Equity Center (SJEC) (formally known as the Queer Resource Center), wanted the LGBTQ+ community members at SOU to come together to celebrate pride in a safe, socially-distanced way. Due to the pandemic, the usual pride parade was more of a casual, socially-distanced stroll, with the bonus of free ice-cream at Zoey’s Cafe.
The Siskiyou spoke with Reese on their inspiration for this event. “I thought it would be a really cool idea to have an event where people could just relax for a bit, especially after midterms…we’re lucky the weather [was] looking up,” Reese explained. Concerned about the effect the colder weather will have on students as quarantine continues, Reese elaborated that, “The whole idea was to bring people together to celebrate themselves, and to take a walk.”
When asked about the hopes and plans for the SJEC, Reese explained that the department was focused on creating a space for queer students before the pandemic. However, due to the pandemic, they have had to adapt. “We can’t hold space in the Stevenson Union anymore, so we’ve done a lot more community outreaches, giving out pride-themed care packages, and making sure that students aren’t feeling isolated in a time where it is very easy to feel alone,” said Reese.
“The big thing right now is community engagement, and finding connection in an otherwise connectionless world,” Reese said. This particular Pride is special to Reese as it is their first time participating in the celebrations and their first time organizing it. “In a time like this, we should redefine what a ‘normal experience’ is…it is incredibly important to create your own experiences,” Reese emphasized.
The Siskiyou also spoke with several participants of the pride walk on what pride meant to them in the time of a pandemic. Many of the students in attendance were freshmen and from places that didn’t have many pride events or were as accepting as SOU. “Pride to me during this time means perseverance, however, stuff like this still lets me be myself and express myself,” Kayla Dumore said.
Kt Wirth was excited to go to pride at the beginning of the year, but when COVID-19 hit, it seemed to be out of the question. Wirth shared their excitement about the pride stroll, “it’s great that this event is going on, especially outdoors and not over Zoom,” she said. Cosette Maclean, another freshman, agreed, saying, “I come from a conservative small town, so it’s nice to be here doing gay things.”
“I’m really about all the events that are happening, and it’s nice to be around people similar to me,” Grey Turner said. “Pride is super important, our community is super strong and it’s great to be around people you can be confident with.” Katherine Alm, a freshman, always looks forward to Pride in San Francisco, but shared that, “it’s refreshing to see people come together, and small events like this are really special.”
Alex Sylvester, the Equity Coordinator for the SJEC, also spoke to the Siskiyou about the Social Justice and Equity Center and the department’s future. “When the resource centers were created back in the 70s, they were created with a physical space in mind…this change is about shifting the focus from being about maintaining an office to supporting the students,” she said.
As for the department’s plans, she is most excited to be thinking and focusing more critically on racial justice. “This is the first that a gender office—to my knowledge—has a specific position for Racial Justice and Decolonization,” she said. “We’re also really focused on responding to the pandemic, and we have coordinators for both outdoor and online events, focusing on expanding the community to both new and returning students, and possibly having a mentor program that will take place in a COVID-safe way.”
“So much of this work is, and always has been, about love, and I think we need to find ways to share that with each other,” Sylvester shared. There was a palpable sense of love as people walked to Zoey’s, chatting and getting to know one another.
If you have questions about the SJEC, you can contact Alex Sylvester at firstname.lastname@example.org.