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Month of 'Gaypril' brings Rutgers community together for more than 25 events

<p>GAYpril, which is coordinated by the Center for Social Justice Education and LGBT Communities (SJE), consists of one month of lectures, workshops and events like the Demarest Drag Show.</p>

GAYpril, which is coordinated by the Center for Social Justice Education and LGBT Communities (SJE), consists of one month of lectures, workshops and events like the Demarest Drag Show.

Rutgers "GAYpril" kicked off last week with a high-energy opening ceremony in the Busch Student Center. 

During the week, "GAYpril" related events included "Breaking Boundaries" with transgender advocate Andy Marra, and a "Safer Sex and Relationships Workshop" hosted by the Queer Student Alliance (QSA). 

Next week the annual Demarest Hall Spring Drag Show (Ft. Will Wood) will take place at Demarest Hall on the College Avenue campus.  

In total, the month-long series will continue to feature more than 25 events and activities for people of all races, genders and sexualities. The goal of the month is to recognize the LGBTQIA community on Rutgers campus. 

"GAYpril" is an opportunity for the entire campus to involve itself in educational and celebratory programming related to queer issues, according to its mission statement. 

The Center for Social Justice Education & LGBT Communities (SJE) has collaborated with the Asian American Cultural Center to kick off the celebration of "GAYpril" and Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. 

Keywuan Caulk, the assistant director of SJE, has been at Rutgers for the past two years serving in the Office of Residence Life on Busch campus.

“This is a time where we celebrate LGBTQIA heritage,” Caulk said. “We acknowledge the struggle and the progress we have made along the way.”

SJE promotes a supportive environment for students of all backgrounds, with a focus on gender and sexuality, he said. The organization promotes both social and educational opportunities for leadership, identity and social justice advocacy.

The organization also works with the students, faculty and staff to develop relevant policies that center around diversity and inclusion.

Filipino American poet Regie Cabico and poet Staceyann Chin performed at the opening ceremony celebration. Guests from past ceremonies have included the Prancing Elites, George Takei, Lance Bass, Jujubee and Rosie Perez, among many others.

Cabico has been featured on two seasons of "Def Poetry Jam" on HBO.

“Your struggles are important," Cabico said. "Nobody is going to tell me I cannot be on stage.” 

Cabico shared his slam poetry on stage as well as personal stories from his own life as an Asian-American gay man.

“To do slam poetry you have to be really passionate about something. I was just really tired of people not knowing, asking me where I was from or not being ‘enough,’” he said.

Chin is a spoken-word poet, performing artist and LGBT rights political activist. Her work has been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Pittsburgh Daily and has been featured on 60 Minutes.

She also performed onstage and shared stories from her life. The artist is known for sharing about her family and early life in Jamaica.

Chin is also known for her memoir "The Other Side of Paradise," where she wrote about drifting from one home to the next, coming out as a lesbian, finding the man she believes to be her father and finally finding her voice.

Her performance at Rutgers’ "GAYpril" focused on issues of race and sexuality.

Ashley Demrest, a School of Arts and Science senior, was at the Busch Campus Center celebrating this special month.

“I think it’s important to have representation, especially in a college setting,” she said. “I think GAYpril is awesome because it’s a really fun, comfortable setting celebrating something awesome.”

"GAYpril" celebrations will end May 2 with the "Rainbow Graduation Ceremony." This is a special commencement ceremony dedicated to the LGBTQIA and ally graduates.

Most performers at the opening ceremony had an underlying theme — representation. As Cabico explained, he just wants to be heard.

He said as a poetry activist, his whole mission is to give people a voice and to get stories heard.

“I know that I have something important to say,” Cabico said. 

Jillian Pastor is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum.

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