RockOUT held a candlelight vigil Monday night in homage to members of the LGBTQ+ community who has lost their lives in the struggle for equal rights.
Before a moment of silence, Frankie Walker, the organization’s president, read an ode to the victims of 2016’s Orlando nightclub shooting. Acts of violence such as that, in which 49 people were killed, and a high rate of suicides within the community were reasons the vigil was organized.
“It’s important to start the week off, before the fun and everything, just to remember the struggle that we’ve had to go through to get here,” said Walker, a junior public relations major. “And it’s nice for everyone to get together in an intimate environment so everyone can remember and know that there are people here for them if they need that.”
Like Walker, students and faculty attended in support of the LGBTQ+ community and remembrance of members.
“LGBTQ+ people are hated against,” said Desolina Valenti, a junior cultural studies major. “So it’s big to honor those who have lost their lives in the fight to try to bring equality.”
Some attendees had personal experiences with the death of a loved one, making the event all the more important for them.
“To me personally, I’ve known people who have passed and it’s humbling that so many people have come and gone before me to allow our school to have events like this,” Walker said.
“This event really means a lot to me,” senior Caitlin Chavez said. “I’ve lost a lot of friends in the LGBTQ+ community due to suicide and it’s just a good way to honor them.”
Chavez, a social work major and animal-assisted interventions minor, also serves as the vice president on RockOUT’s executive board. She touched upon how the gay community sometimes doesn’t feel fully accepted in society, explaining also that she lost a friend shortly after he came out to friends and family last year.
“We don’t have the privilege to just be accepted or feel comfortable in our skin, being part of the LGBTQ+ community,” Chavez said. “But this week kind of highlights the moments of being proud of and accepting who you are and motivating people to stay hopeful and positive.”
Chavez also offered advice for students thinking or wondering how to come out.
“Be patient,” Chavez said. “You’ll know when you’re ready. Don’t let anyone else push you. And also be positive, even if it starts out on the wrong foot, every foot forward is a foot forward.”
Also included in the Pride Week festivities was the Arts Fest in the lobby of the Smith Student Center Tuesday, which displayed pieces made by or for members of the LGBTQ+ community. RockOUT then paired up with the Pride Center to hold a “Gay Jeopardy” on Tuesday night.
The Drag Show, the most popular event of the week, will be held at 8 p.m. in the Smith Student Center ballroom Wednesday evening. During common hour Thursday, Acceptance Day, in which other clubs and organization come together in support of the community, will be held in the quad.