April 25, 2022
The quad at Rutgers–Camden was a sea of rainbow flags, colorful balloons and glittering outfits as students, staff and faculty showed up on Friday afternoon to support the campus’ first-ever Pride Fest.
As Lady Gaga’s “Born this Way” blared from the speaker system, attendees enjoyed a live drag show, designed pronoun buttons, decorated Pride flags, played lawn games and more. A long list of vendors, including the Mazzoni Center, William Way Community Center, Live Nation, Garden State Equality and Jersey Gay Pride, handed out everything from temporary tattoos to hotline information for LGBTQ support services.
“Knowing that there are so many people here, that makes it so much more valid,” said Sean Tomasetto, a junior at Rutgers–Camden. “It’s easy to think, ‘I’m the only one who’s like this.’ But during events like this you get to see people who are just like you and different in just the right ways. Everyone’s having a great time; I feel like this shows the best of what Rutgers–Camden has to offer.”
Funded by a $2,000 Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Advocacy (IDEA) Innovation Grant from the Office of Civic Engagement, the celebration had been in the planning stages since last November. Syd Johnson, president of the Student Government Association and event organizer, said the committee’s goal was to create a safe space for LGBTQ expression and activism.
“Events like this are not only fun, but also showcase acceptance and tolerance of LGBTQ people,” Johnson said.
Nearly 240 anti-LGBTQ bills have been filed in 2022, from restrictions on LGBTQ instruction in schools to bans on gender-affirming health care for minors. Amid this turbulent year for the LGBTQ community, Johnson said they wanted to spread awareness of these challenges and share resources from community-based organizations and local nonprofits dedicated to improving the lives of LGBTQ individuals. They are driven by a personal goal to ease the name-change process and increase pronoun visibility across campus.
“My goal was to create not only a celebration of LGBTQ people, but also increase advocacy, hence all our vendor tables,” Johnson said. “We need to show that we support all of our community. Not just in events like this, but in our classrooms, our activities, in everything.”
Johnson said they plan to make Pride Fest an annual tradition. They thanked the entire committee, especially Chrissie King, assistant director of the Campus Center at the Division of Student Life, for her help in bringing this vision to life.
“It was a very loving community that was able to help me put this together,” Johnson said. “I couldn’t have done it without everyone.”