Shay Harris—October is National LGBT History Month and as a Resident Assistant (RA) at The College at Brockport, I decided to do something special to celebrate this. Before my junior year ended, I brainstormed a list of programs I wanted to initiate during my third and final year as an RA. Among my list I wrote three words: Festival of Love. At the time of writing that phrase, I had no idea of the beauty those words would transform into or the impact they would ultimately have.
So what’s the Festival of Love? It was a week-long series of programing hosted by Residential Life that celebrated LGBTQ+ pride and awareness. The event started on Sunday, October 1st, kicked off by the PrismPalooza! It was an outdoor festival which featured LuGia’s ice-cream, pizza, lawn games, face painting, live music, tie-dye and more!
The event was a assisted by Campus Recreation, Brockport Student Government’s Advocacy Department, Brockport’s Pride Association, Golden Eagle Records, and Hazen’s Counseling Center. It was a great event in that members of the LGBTQ+ community and allies alike were able to sing, dance, and play together.
The second event was Pride Rocks and Crafts. During this event participants were able to paint rocks with whatever positive message they chose. The rocks were then distributed around campus with the intent of being viewed or picked up by a stranger, who would then choose to keep the rock or spread it around. There was also a station for people to write messages to themselves or someone they cared for.
Day three was LGBTQ+ Jeopardy and while I was unable to attend the entire event, I heard great discussions were had regarding many of the words and phrases introduced. Event four of the Festival was Critical Conversation: LGBTQ+ Representation in the Media. I was late for this due to a class, but when I stopped by attendees were discussing how many villains in Disney movies are often portrayed as “feminine” and/or “stereotypically gay” (think Lion King’s Scar or Aladdin’s Jafar for examples). The conversation considered how harmful such representation could be for young people ingesting such messages (i.e. villains=gay or hyper-masculinity trumps all).
The fifth event was a Safe Sex Olympics, which included trivia and relay races in Olympic-styled competitions, and the final event was Brockport’s very own Pride Parade! Although I was on my way to Montreal during the parade, I saw video of close to fifty people marching throughout campus showing both pride and support for the community.
I was supper passionate about initiating the Festival of Love because as an incoming student, I was very self-conscious of how people saw me and I struggled with my orientation. It took me until my junior year to openly come out as gay and I’m certain that if the Festival of Love had occurred during my freshman year, my coming out process would have been a bit easier. For me, the festival was a physical manifestation of where I am today: out, proud, and most importantly, loving the person I am today.
My hope is that when I graduate this upcoming May, another RA will take the reigns of the the Festival of Love, making it an annual event like Brockport’s Diversity Conference, BSG Concerts, and our Summer Reading Event. Since my Summer Orientation, I knew this campus needed me and the idea of leaving a legacy has always been in my mind. In striving to build a better Brockport, I believe it’s my responsibility as a student to ensure that I do all that I can to make this campus more inclusive and equitable. I recognized a lack of programing geared toward members of the LGBTQ+ community and so I made it my business to do something about that. It’s still difficult for me to say exactly what my legacy will be upon leaving this space, but I can say for certain that the Festival of Love will be an iconic part of it.