Despite the fact that it was dreary and rainy, the pride of Millersville students and the surrounding community members was enough to keep the campus adorned with rainbow flags of all sorts, a lovely drag queen named Shangela and custom-made cupcakes, among other things.
Pridefest has been going on for three years now; it was started in 2014 by Shaq Glover. What started as a drag show performance with around a hundred people turned into a large-scale event with people travelling long distances just to experience what pride is like at Millersville. Last Friday night, Oct. 13, the LGBT community and its allies graced the Student Memorial Center for food, education and live performances.
A lot of people attended this year’s Pridefest; some were experienced to these kinds of events, but for others, this was the very first Pride they had been to.
One such person was freshman Karina Morales, who had been involved with her Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) while she attended high school, but never made it out to a formal Pride event. Though, after attending this one, she said that more Prides are planned for her future.
“I’m glad I came,” Morales said. “It’s pretty awesome. When I was in GSA, it was like 10 of us. Seeing so many people in the community… coming together is awesome.”
Though Morales has not even finished her first semester at Millersville, she said that it’s a lot different than what she was used to.
“Millersville feels really inclusive. It doesn’t matter where you come from, or what you identify as; we’re all just people at this university,” Morales said. “Realizing how big the community is, and how many people will accept you and embrace you … You’re not alone.”
Planning the event
No stranger to Prides, Monica Rush helped to plan Pridefest for a second year in a row, along with Shaun Copeland, Tyler Cook and Karlee Rice. Jasmine Whitlow, the head of the new Intercultural Center for Student Engagement, also played an instrumental role in planning this year’s Pridefest.
“Jasmine Whitlow is largely responsible for how big the event has been, and she has helped take Pridefest from a relatively small campus event to a huge celebration,” Rush said. “Working on Pridefest was stressful at times, but it was a labor of love and I feel very blessed to have worked on it with such an amazing team.”
The struggle this year came with deadlines. Though Pridefest appeared to be a cohesive and put-together event, there was a lot of shifting that happened in the background. “There are a lot of little things that go into an event this big that need to be juggled, and if you start letting things fall to the wayside, they can have a big impact on the final product,” Rush said. She noted that this year went relatively smoothly, as far as planning went.
Rush, Copeland, Cook and Rice scurried around Pridefest, ensuring that everything went well. In retrospect, Rush said she can’t be more proud of how the event turned out this year.
“This was me and Tyler’s last year planning Pridefest, and while I can’t speak for Tyler, I felt a lot of anxiety about wanting to leave the event better than I found it,” Rush said. “I was scared something might go wrong and then I wouldn’t have another shot at it. But looking back now I am so unbelievably proud of Pridefest.”
Because of last year’s popularity — and lack of supplies to keep up with the demand of the participants — Rush said that the numbers of all the merchandise were doubled for this year. While they had prepared for a big turnout, Rush said she was still “stoked” about the turnout.
While this year’s Pridefest has come and gone, the importance of having events such as these still linger.
“LGBT people face a lot of hardship and hurt in this world. Pride is a chance to celebrate ourselves, to appreciate the beauty of a vibrant and diverse community, as well as a chance to show defiance in the face of hatred,” Rush said.
It’s because of this that the staff for Pridefest worked hard to keep it accessible to the public. “For many students, school is the only place they are able to be completely out,” Rush said. “Many students cannot be themselves at home, and so it is extremely important for our university, their second home, to give them space to be comfortable in their identity, and to celebrate themselves.”
This event could not have been possible without the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA), the President’s Commission on Gender & Sexual Diversity, and the numerous other people who took the time from their lives to help plan and execute such a large-scale event on campus.