Celebrating with Pride
Runte Quad rolled out the rainbow carpet on Oct. 26 to welcome ODU Out, Old Dominion University’s LGBTQ alliance, to celebrate its second annual ODU Pride Festival.
ODU Out President Mikey Fenn said the turnout this year almost tripled compared to last year, and the number of venders nearly doubled as well. Though this is only his first year as president, Fenn was amazed at how far the festival has progressed in such a short time.
“It’s bigger than anything I could have ever imagined,” Fenn said. “New faces always means that we’re getting to new people, and the fact that people hear about it and are willing to stop by for a couple of hours and get their face painted and listen to music and see the performances – it’s just really more than I could have imagined.”
The musical stylings of Randi Driscol and performances by Naomi Black and Alessandra McQueen accompanied the festivities. The crowd’s cheers for them could be heard all the way from Webb Center.
Naomi Black, working a rainbow jumpsuit and three-inch glittering heels, took to the stage for her second consecutive year at ODU’s Pride Festival.
“Gimme some attitude!” Black called out to the crowd before beginning her show.
Those familiar with her performance responded with shouts of good-hearted obscenities, while those seeing her for the first time simply cheered as Black danced across the stage and into the audience.
Occasionally partnering with fellow drag queen Alessandra McQueen, the two perform up and down the East Coast. They have both known ODU Out for years, and were happy to add headlining for the pride festival to their extensive list of volunteer work.
“Everyone’s been so accommodating, and anytime something’s going to bring everyone together like this that’s a positive thing,” Black commented. “Most people don’t have that positive force in their life.”
Many students came in costume to show their support. Combining Halloween with gay pride, two young ladies covered themselves in zombie makeup and wore ripped t-shirts that proudly advertised their support for LGBTQ and “Z” rights. Another student paraded his support by draping a rainbow flag around a shoulder as a poncho, complete with a matching sombrero.
Organizations from on and off campus joined in the festivities and hosted booths across the quad to show their support for ODU Out’s endeavors.
The ODU Office of Intercultural Relations advertised their workshops dedicated to sexual identity and expression. “Students not only learn from the workshop facilitator, a lesbian professor here at ODU, but also from the stories of the other student’s lives,” said an office spokesperson.
Residence life showcased their LGBTQ friendly housing. Located on the first floor of Virginia House, Spectrum Floor is specifically reserved for LGBTQ students and their allies. Residents participate in many programs to raise LGBTQ awareness, including a food drive to provide essentials to Seton Youth Shelter in Virginia Beach.
Also supporting the festival was the Human Rights Campaign, the largest organization dedicated to LGBTQ equality in the United States. Their program Virginia is for Lovers of Equality hosts a team of eight individuals that travel across the state encouraging citizens to vote for pro-LGBTQ candidates.
Hope House foundation spokesperson Sherry Grimes, an ODU alumnus, was ecstatic to watch the events of the day play by her booth.
“I don’t remember the events we had when I was here being nearly as big as this one,” said Grimes. “I’m really stoked that ODU is doing this; it’s definitely something that we need.”
Other organizations that joined in the event included Planned Parenthood, Young Americans for Liberty, ODU College Democrats, New Life Metropolitan Community Church and the NOH8 campaign.
ODU Out Treasurer Sean Bussiere said he was impressed with the overall turnout, and contributed the event’s success to the NOH8 campaign’s assistance.
“We’re excited to have Naomi Black with us again,” said Bussiere. “And we’re all excited to see so many unfamiliar faces. I can tell you right now I don’t know 80 percent of the people here. When we see strangers at events like this, we understand the campus community is coming out to support us, and that’s wonderful.”
While this is the club’s biggest event of the year, they also host the Condom Olympics and Drag Bingo in the spring semester. ODU Out club meetings are held every Tuesday during Activity Hour in the Portsmouth Room of Webb Center.