VCU Students Bring First Ever Pride March To Campus
A pride march consisting of VCU students and student leaders gathered at 7:00 Monday to begin the first ever VCU affiliated LGBTQ pride match.
Held on the anniversary of the first LGBTQ March On Washington, itself held near the anniversary of MLK’s famous march, the march started at the school’s commons and walked around campus.
A preview for the march went up last week, as well as posters and flyers being distributed on campus. The VCU LGBTQ student’s voice has been more vocal in the last year, a school supported march, however, was a step the school hadn’t yet taken, but is being considered part of the school’s larger efforts to embrace the LGBTQ community.
In line with this push, VCU hired its first LGBTQ coordinator, and has been employing its Safe Zone chapter more in recent months. VCU Safe Zone, a program designed to educate faculty and staff, including police, on LGBTQ sensitivity and assistance training.
Faith Wilkerson M.Ed, the director of VCU’s Office of Multicultural Student Affairs (OMSA), said while it is not a mandatory program, department heads make the call as to whether or not their employees attend Safe Zone. A straight ally and student organizer, Wilkerson has employed Safe Zone for all who work under her and consistently stressed the importance of education.
While OSMA and other organizations comprised a portion of the march, a few students who had not previously been involved with OMSA arrived just to march. This was the progress Wilkerson was hoping for.
“Even if we reach one or two students that we’ve never seen, that’s worth a hundred to me,” Wilkerson said about the march’s small turn out. “It’s the first time we’ve done anything like this. We could use more promotion, in terms of educating people on why we are marching.”
One part of this education, Wilkerson said, was getting the first march under their belt. “For anyone that saw it and showed, even if it’s a motivating head-nod, that’s what it’s all about. Building that camaraderie, building that community, building that sense of achievement That’s why it didn’t matter to me whether it was 1 or 100, because the students that were there felt that, and were able to walk away and share that with other students, and say ‘man, guess what, we did this march, and they were honking!’”
The march kicked off at 7:30 PM Monday night and a number of students had arrived early to make signs. Marching through the commons and out into the compass, students late to their 7:00 PM classes and many others gave a warm reception of cheers, honks, and bell dings. The center of campus is the campus’ heart and often a place where people congregate, giving the demonstration an audience, despite the evening time slot.
“There is always someone to be an active advocate for, and regardless of your sexuality, there’s always someone that needs fighting for,” Wilkerson said. “VCU has always been a community with multiple layers, and this, our LGBT community, is one of our layers.”
Caitlin Tolson, a sophomore VCU student who identifies as a lesbian, is president of VCU Student Equality. She was somewhat disappointed by the turnout but noted that the real measure would be how this event affected future events and how students felt about participating in them.
“As president of a new LGBT organization on campus, it’s hard for new events and groups to attract many members of the LGBT community. This may be because they are not comfortable to be at events like the march or they are unaware that these events even exist.”
But Tolson was hopeful, she said she knows VCU’s LGBTQ community is there and it’s just a matter of getting the pieces together. “Events like the pride march are not for everyone, but hopefully, in the future, more members of the VCU community will be aware of its existence and want to come together”
As the march went around Monroe Park and back, the sense of pride heightened among the marchers. The flags flew higher and the honks held longer. In the year 2013, few get the honor to st precedents in the LGBTQ community, and the overwhelming feeling when they wrapped up the march was the event was a great first step towards more public displays of pride in and around VCU.
“We just kind of try it, see what happens and then make it better for round two,” Wilkerson said.
You can view a schedule of VCU’s LGBTQ history month events here.
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