On Tuesday, a rainbow balloon arch and pride flags stood proudly in the Pit.
Staff at the LGBTQ Center and student volunteers set up “Pride in the Pit” as part of a series of events for UNC's Pride Week. The week is a celebration of the LGBTQ+ community at UNC and is celebrated in tandem with the 20-year anniversary of the Center’s opening.
J Stockett, the assistant director of the LGBTQ Center, said the goal of Tuesday’s event was to celebrate with students in one of the most central parts of campus.
“Visibility matters, so we want to make sure we’re here and we’re seen,” she said.
The celebration included LGBTQ+-themed trivia, button-making, free food, games and resource handouts.
First-year Hrishika Roychoudhury helped run a trivia game for visitors to test their knowledge about LGBTQ+ topics ranging from identifying different community pride flags to answering questions about pop culture.
Roychoudhury decided to volunteer at the event to meet new friends within the LGBTQ+ community while promoting awareness of queer topics.
“It’s just a fun way to engage people with the community and teach them more about things that have happened within the community,” she said.
Junior Jimmy Lynch and graduate student Drew Aldridge helped with the event as members of Athlete Ally, an emerging club that aims to provide support and resources for LGBTQ+ and allied athletes at UNC. Aldridge said that, as an ally, she decided to help at the event because she believes it is important to show up for people and causes you care about.
“It’s about amplifying people’s voices and making sure that they’re visible and that they’re being heard and accepted,” she said. “So, creating a space where people feel comfortable to be themselves and celebrate everyone.”
Sophomore Eliza Meyer said she was walking through the Pit on Tuesday, saw people she knew at the event and decided to help with the button-making activity at one of the tables.
The buttons she helped make included slogans like “The First Pride Was a Riot,” “Out of the Closet” and “Lavender Menace.” She said that when student activists and outreach groups have events to participate in, it makes her day brighter.
“It’s really nice to have a little break from class and to see something that represents you as part of the student body,” Meyer said. “I think the visibility aspect of being in the Pit, being in our central space, is so nice, and I hope people feel like they can pick up a button and use it to help represent their identity.”
And that's exactly what happened with Seven Mullis, an incoming first-year student.
They picked up a “Trans Pride” button at the event, when their family stumbled upon the table on their way to a scheduled campus tour.
“It makes me really excited to be here and knowing that there’s a community that’s welcoming for me,” Seven said. “It’s really nice to see all of this happening — it was a really good surprise.”
The Mullis family came into town to tour UNC and attended Pride Week events while they were here, including the Monday night reception for the Center’s Anniversary Gallery in the Student Union. Chris Mullis, Seven’s father, said they were happy to come across another event run by the LGBTQ Center when they came to Pride in the Pit.
Chris Mullis said that attending these events on campus helped him feel better about sending his child off to college.
“It allows us to breathe a little easier,” he said. “Especially connecting personally with the folks that are here, to know that there is a safe environment of people who care – adults and students. It’s important to know who you can turn to and know how to navigate a new town, a new space.”
Raleigh artist Stella Stow helped run the photo booth, documenting the event and allowing visitors to express themselves with photos.
Stow had one message they hoped this event would send to the UNC community:
“We’re not going anywhere.”
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