Ursinus’ First Pride Festival

Johnny Myer s

jomyers@ursinus.edu

On Friday, April 19, the Rainbow Resource Center held the first Ursinus LGBTQ+ Pride Festival. The event had performances, giveaways, and resources for everyone, including commemorative T-shirts, and concluded in a campus march from Olin Plaza to the LOVE statue. The entire program was the result of the combined efforts of people throughout the Ursinus community, including Ace Melendez ‘19, president of the Gender and Sexuality Alliance, student members of GSA, SUN, and L.A.X, as well as Dean Terrence Williams and Ashley Henderson.

Haunt Pitcher ’19 weighed in on the Pride Festival. “The event is the first Ursinus Pride Festival, which we hope will become an annual event. It’s designed to support and represent the Ursinus LGBTQ+ community and encourage pride in our identities. The event will feature tables
by a number of groups both on and off campus, including the Rainbow Resource Center, the Trevor Project, the Montgomery County LGBT Business Council, Feminists in Action, Peer Advocates, UC Wellness Center, Delta Pi Sigma, Alpha Delta Phi, and Pi Omega Delta. These groups will be sharing information about their groups and how they provide services to the LGBTQ+ community both on and off campus. Delta Pi Sigma will be having a clothing drive for Philly AIDS Thrift, and the RRC will be selling Ursinus Pride t-shirts. This will all take place in Lower Wismer.”

“I am a nonbinary, trans-masculine, pansexual individual,” said Pitcher. “Primarily, I want this event to serve Ursinus’ LGBTQ+ community, to show that Ursinus is a safe place where we can be ourselves and take pride in our identity. However, I hope that the entire Ursinus community realizes that we are a vibrant and important part of Ursinus, and learns a bit about how Ursinus can support LGBTQ+ individuals, as well as the type of work we’re doing on campus,” said Pitcher.

“At 1 pm, there will be a series of Lightning Talks by faculty and students in the IIE, exploring LGBTQ+ topics and academic course offerings. At 2 pm, Sankofa Umoja Nia (SUN) will be hosting a presentation on ballroom culture in the IIE, run by Donay Burden. At 3 pm, there will be an open mic/poetry slam in Lower, hosted by Val Axtle and Cyn Ercole. At 5 pm, there will be a pride march from Olin Plaza to the LOVE statue. Everyone is encouraged to join in the fun and celebrate their pride,” said Pitcher.

Ace Mendelez, who spearheaded the event, reflected on Ursinus’ history with the queer community. “Ursinus, to my knowledge, has never had a large-scale celebration of pride before, so I thought that would be something to strive for in my last year,” they said. “As for things that will be going on, we’ll be selling T-Shirts that say ‘Ursinus Pride’ on them, Delta Pi Sigma will be hosting a clothing drive, and there will be different events during the day.”

Ace had the idea after noticing what other colleges were doing. “This event came to be just off of an idea I had,” said Ace. “I took up the Rainbow Resource Center this year as the student director, and a big item I had planned was to have a pride festival. Other colleges have had these before, and I wanted to bring that to Ursinus. I saw that Ursinus never had one before, and took it upon myself to initiate planning for this one.”

The planning process was difficult, said Ace. They noted that the set-up “involved the help of many deans and faculty who were really supportive of my vision and met with me weekly to plan out different parts of the event.” Ace also tried their best to “contact different organizations to try and make
it a collaborative effort across campus instead of just the RRC. I unfortunately missed out on contacting everyone, as some groups reached out asking why they weren’t invited. This is entirely valid, and I hope this the pride festival becomes an annual event after I graduate so I can make note to have whoever replaces me reach out more in the future.”

Ace also wants the event to launch a conversation on campus about gender and sexuality. As a person who uses they/them pronouns, this is sometimes a difficult conversation to have. “I think this event could help start conversations surrounding gender identity and sexuality. I feel like an event like this should have been done far earlier in Ursinus’ lifetime personally. And as for what can be done, I think funneling more funding into inclusivity groups on campus would be a large part of what the school can do on an administrative level. I also feel that the school could be doing more in the way of having staff that specializes in inclusivity, because as of now, most inclusivity centered events on campus are run and organized by students. Personally I feel like that shouldn’t be the case. This event and others like it shouldn’t be something that is spearheaded by students with the help of some staff, it should just be something the college does annually and funds. On a community and student level however, I feel like what should be done is simply learning more about different identities, attending meetings from inclusivity-oriented groups, etc. Engaging with each other and learning from each other should be common practice, and I want to bring that energy forward with this festival. Everyone deserves a place on campus where they can be validated, loved, and appreciated with the support of their peers and their community.”

Ace is also excited at the prospect of the festival continuing after they graduate. “It’s the very first festival, so I’m just hoping that it goes well and that it can be a good jumping-off point in the future,” said Ace. “I don’t expect it to be perfect, I just hope that everyone has fun.”