Rutgers kicks off Gaypril with Prancing Elites, celebration
While winds howled outside the Douglass Student Center, students jammed out to empowering songs and munched on snacks before Tuesday night's main event: the GAYpril Opening Ceremony.
GAYpril, hosted by the Center for Social Justice Education and LGBT Communities, is a month-long celebration of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and culture.
Several organizations helped with the opening ceremony and different events throughout April. Queer and Asian, LLEGO: the LGBTQQIA People of Color Alliance and Douglass Q/ummunity, the organization of queer women and allies, all contributed to the events that will be held throughout the month.
The hosts for the opening ceremony were Jessamyn Bonafe, a School of Arts and Sciences junior and vice-president of LLEGO, and Da'shon Holder, a School of Arts and Sciences senior and the group's president.
SJE arranged for a special appearance by the Prancing Elites, an “incomparable” dance team composed entirely of gay and gender non-conforming people of color, said Lindsay Jeffers, the graduate program coordinator for SJE and event's key organizers.
“We think that they’re really great role models for our students, in the queer people of color community especially,” the Graduate School of Education first-year student said. “(They are) folks who have overcome adversity and are living their authentic selves.”
Jeffers hopes to do more events like the kick-off, citing her passion for working with the LGBT community. She said she wants to work in student affairs and encourage multiculturalism and institutional diversity.
The room was packed with people of all ages, including prospective students. Alexa Sanchez, a junior at Franklin High School, has attended GAYpril’s opening ceremony since she was 12 years old.
Sanchez is part of the pre-collegiate program at the Rutgers Business School, but was introduced to this event through her mother, who works at the University as a dean, she said.
Sanchez said she is looking forward to all of GAYpril’s events and enjoyed Alex Newell’s appearance at last year’s opening ceremony.
“It’s so cool how Rutgers is able to get these people from actual TV shows to come, and it’s all free too,” she said.
Sanchez brought her two friends, Keyla Hernandez and Mariah Mosley, both seniors at New Brunswick High School. Hernandez is looking forward to the University’s production of "Rent" in honor of GAYpril because it is her favorite musical.
Mosley said that this event is “really an eye-opener” for her, since she has very few chances to be around other LGBT people. She is the co-founder and president of the Gay-Straight Alliance at her school, which she started in November 2015. The group now has more than 30 members attend its weekly meetings.
“The community at NBHS is really small, and we’re not really connected. Outside of our meetings, we don’t really talk,” she said. “You’re scared to be affiliated with somebody like that because not everybody is out, so it’s hard.”
Hernandez added that their school district is called “New Gunswick,” because “it’s not safe to be gay in New Brunswick.”
Sanchez lightened the mood, saying GAYpril lets them know they have a community to support them.
“In high school, everybody looks down on (being LGBT), but here it’s praised,” she said. “The environments are different. It’s cool.”
Bushra Hasan is a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student majoring in cell biology and neuroscience. She is a staff writer for The Daily Targum. Follow her on Twitter @Hasanabanana for more.