February is Black History Month and the Pride Center hosted a Rock Talk, “What Does America Mean for Queer and Trans People of Color” Wednesday night.
The event consisted of two panelists, Kayla Mayers and Kristopher Oliveria. Oliveria is a SRU alumni who now serves as the director at the Center for Sexuality and Gender Diversity at the University of Kansas. Mayers is a sophomore at SRU. She is part of the Recreational Therapy program and is on the pre–track for Occupational Therapy.
Each panelist discussed their thoughts and experiences within the queer and transgender POC community.
Mayers spoke on her views of America as a person of color in the LGBTQIA+ community.
“America is a fighter. I think in the past year with the protests and everything that has happened we don’t just sit there and let justice slip through our hands,” Mayers said. “It felt like I wasn’t alone, like I had supporters everywhere. To know that it was happening elsewhere was such a surreal feeling. And for that America is a fighter.”
Oliveria spoke on the lack of POC and LGBTQIA+ groups within colleges and institutions.
“There are institutional spaces where you can find black and queer communities,” said Oliveria. “But to create a group where these communities are combined, you must informally start your GroupMe’s and meet people through meetings that are not intended for those spaces and then hopefully set that up for yourselves.”
Oliveria encourages these communities to advocate for themselves and push to have the conversations and dialogs, just like the discussion in this Rock Talk.
During the event, the panelists also discussed what students, staff and faculty can do to promote a safer, healthier and more welcoming space for LGBTQIA+ community members and POC.
“I would say show up, pay attention, keep your ears open. And I would say creating a space for others and recognizing where your identities hold privilege,” Oliveria said. “But also when you are using that voice to uplift others.”
The Pride Center is currently holding LGBTQIA+ Support Groups every Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. Students can find the Zoom link on CORE.
Students can also connect with the panelists via Instagram and Twitter: @Oh.okayla and @Kris4equality
“Be friendly. Be nice. I feel that especially for POC and the LGBTQ community, it is harder for us to get that,” said Mayers. “Let’s just be nice. It’s not that hard.”