When it comes to LGBTQIA+ support, Harper College students and employees aren’t just talking the talk; they’re walking the walk – literally.
In honor of LGBTQ History Month and National Coming Out Day, the first Harper Pride Fest will feature a Pride Walk followed by a yoga class on the north portion of the college campus, between Building D and the outdoor pavilion on Monday, October 11. Opening remarks are set for 1 p.m., with the walk and yoga to follow. All participants are required to register for the event.
“Our students are asking for more on-campus events. We wanted to show our Harper community and especially all of our LGBTQIA+ staff, faculty and students that we support you,” said Jesus Molina, Harper’s Veterans Center coordinator and one of the event’s organizers. “We wanted to say, ‘We’re behind you,’ but not just in a post on social media. We wanted to physically show we’re here.”
Staff from multiple departments collaborated on planning an outdoor event that could allow for a socially distanced celebration. Pride Fest was originally scheduled for Pride Month in June, before inclement weather postponed the event to October.
In addition to the walk and yoga class, Harper employee and student speakers will commemorate the day. Dr. Claudia Mercado, associate provost, student affairs, will deliver keynote remarks. Harper student-employee Mitch Ryba will speak before the walk begins and the Progress Pride Flag is raised on campus.
Sean Warren-Crouch, manager of the Promise Scholarship Program, is slated to give the closing address. He plans to recognize the college’s progress in supporting members of LGBTQIA+ communities. Also the chair of Harper’s Staff, Administrators and Faculty for Equality Employee Resource Group (or SAFE ERG), Warren-Crouch is proud of the “small, but mighty” group’s role in encouraging the college to adopt new chosen name procedures and focus on gender pronouns.
“I want to recognize the work that we’ve done this past year,” Warren-Crouch said. “The transition I’ve seen since I started three years ago has been amazing. Harper has grown by leaps and bounds.”
Erin Graff, interim associate dean of the Center for Student Involvement, said that Pride Fest is emblematic of the sense of belonging that she and her colleagues strive to emphasize for all students, employees and community members. She wants everyone to feel welcome on Harper’s campus.
“When we talk about sexual identity, that’s not something you can tell just by looking at a person or how someone aligns with their values. It can be so easy to feel like an outsider,” Graff said. “Events like this allow for people to come together and show their support for individuals who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community and for those individuals to actually see that support.”
She said that the number of those who’ve already registered for Pride Fest shows how much support exists in Harper’s community. Warren-Crouch is excited by the potential turnout, and also by the number of families planning to attend. Meanwhile, Molina said he hopes Harper’s Pride Fest takes root as an annual tradition and continue to grow.
“The goal is for this to be institutionalized and embraced by the entire college,” he said. “And for the community to see this as a big event. They can celebrate LGTBQIA+ Pride right here in their backyard.”
For more information about Pride Fest, visit events.harpercollege.edu.