As students returned to campus after fall break, they were welcomed back with a tradition that is relatively new here at Millersville University. For the third year, the Center for Student Involvement and Leadership, Allies (the Gender and Sexuality Alliance), the University Activities Board, Student Senate and the President’s Commission on Gender and Sexual Diversity hosted Millersville University’s Annual Pride Fest.
This event took place from Wednesday, October 12, through Friday, October 14.
Wednesday kicked off the event with an Open Mic night for those that are part of the LGBTQIA+ community and their allies. Thursday followed with a table event in the SMC Atrium where people had the opportunity to leave a rainbow handprint on a banner to raise awareness and honor those lives lost in the Orlando Night Club shooting over the summer.
That evening, Allies hosted a movie night showing “The Normal Heart,” a film depicting the rise of the HIV-AIDS epidemic that hit New York City in the 80’s. Both events received large turn-outs, but the main event was still yet to come. Friday, October 14 , anyone walking through the SMC found them surrounded by rainbow balloons, flags, and more. Pride Fest was underway, taking over the MPR and Atrium, as well as a giant arch outside.
In the Atrium, students could get a card and visit information tables to get their card hole-punched. After each individual had visited five tables, the student could turn in their card for a free Pride Fest shirt. Some of the groups that had a table included Trancentral PA, Embrace, Silencing the Hate, Black Student Union, Amnesty International and Peer Health Educators.
Family First Health also provided free confidential HIV testing for those that attended Pride Fest. Beyond the tables in the Atrium, food and giveaways were outside of the MPR. Cotton candy, popcorn, and various desserts quickly disappeared among the crowds. People could also visit tables that had flags and pins representing the many ways that individuals identify, including but most definitely not limited to gay, bisexual, transgender, asexual, gender fluid or pansexual. There were members of Allies at each table that would explain what each meant, allowing this event to be every bit as informative as it was fun.
There was also a table with posters to further honor and remember the victims of the Orlando shooting, giving the event goers the opportunity to leave a message of pride, support and remembrance. After students and other attendees were finished outside, the crowds moved into the MPR for the evening entertainment. The night kicked off with the band Shawan and the Wonton, building the crowd’s already high energy.
Following their performance, the crowd waited in anticipation for the much anticipated drag show led by the Sharron Ann Husbands, the drag mother of Tyler Durante, a Millersville Alumni, who went by Wilma during her performance. The drag queens were all met with thunderous applause, much laughter, and buzzing with such positivity and pride. Each performance just got better and better, keeping the audience entertained and excited. With almost 450 attendees, this was definitely a popular event on campus that Friday night.
When the drag show wrapped up, Liz Fulmer, a local singer- songwriter MU alumnus, took the stage to bring some acoustic songs and sounds to the campus. With a coffeehouse feel, she shared her stories of the tough times and the good times as a member of the LGBT+community, as well as sharing her beautiful sound with the crowd.
To wrap up the night, David and David, the people that brought national attention to the actions of Kim Davis, the county clerk that refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, presented on LGBT history and progress through the years. At the conclusion of their presentation, audience members had a chance to open up about the struggles and the pride that intertwine those in the community. With this emotional wrap up, the 3 rd Annual Millersville Pride Fest came to an end.
After the event, Jasmine Whitlow, Assistant Director of CSIL, along with co-chairs, Monica Rush and Tyler Cook, felt that this year’s event was definitely a success. “MU Pride Fest serves to educate, promote awareness of and foster pride in the LGBTQIA and straight ally community at Millersville. I believe that this year's Pride Fest stayed true to the mission by providing a space for individuals to learn, but also to embrace their identity,” Whitlow stated.
“As the Assistant Director for Multicultural Programs and Campus Activities in CSIL, I am honored to be able to provide events and support that affirm student identities, as well as be able to bring awareness to issues relayed to gender and sexual diversity.”
Although Pride Fest 2016 has come to a close, CSIL and Allies have already begun to plan next year’s event to make one of Millersville University’s new traditions bigger and better than before. Monica Rush, co-chair of Pride Fest and President of Allies remarked, “All in all, I was so overwhelmed and overjoyed by the response of the students who attended. We have worked so hard on this event for so long, and it was a privilege to be able to share it with others!”