Celebrating with Pride
On Saturday Oct. 26, Runte Quad rolled out the rainbow carpet to welcome ODU Out, the LGBTQ alliance, as the organization celebrated its second annual ODU Pride Festival.
While ODU Out has existed on campus since the 1960s, the organization experienced a revival in 2000 and has been growing ever since. According to ODU Out President Mikey Fenn, turnout this year almost tripled compared to last year, and the number of venders nearly doubled in number as well.
Though this is only his first year as president, Fenn was amazed at how far the festival has come in such a short time.
“It’s bigger than anything I could have ever imagined. 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,”
Many ODU organizations joined in the festivities and hosted booths across the quad to show their support of ODU Out’s endeavors.
The ODU Office of Intercultural Relations advertised their workshops dedicated to sexual identity and expression, wherein “Students not only learn from the facilitator, a lesbian professor here at ODU, but also from the stories of the other student’s lives,” according to one spokesperson of the office.
Residence life was promoting their LGBTQ friendly housing. Located on the first floor of Virginia House, Spectrum Floor is specifically reserved for LGBTQ students and their allies. The students who live there participate in many programs to raise awareness, one of their most frequent being a food drive to provide essentials to Seton Youth Shelter in Virginia Beach.
President Justin McLawhorn of the ODU College Democrats explained how his organization was happy to come out and support the LGBTQ, as many of the candidates they are seeking to get elected are in favor of providing more rights for the gay community.
“In the downtown after election season, we want to work more with ODU Out doing events. We hope to participate in liberal fest next semester, especially since a lot of organizations like ODU Out and Planned Parenthood will be there. It’ll just be an overall celebration of liberalism, and we’d love to be part of that,” said McLawhorn.
Also supporting the festival was the Human Rights Campaign, the largest organization dedicated to LGBTQ equality in the United States. They were there promoting their program Virginia is for Lovers of Equality, an initiative that hosts a ticket 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 being nearly as big as this one. I’m really stoked that ODU is doing this; it’s definitely something that we need,” said Grimes.
Other organizations that joined in the event included Planned Parenthood, Young Americans for Liberty, New Life Metropolitan Community Church and the NOH8 campaign.
The musical stylings of Randi Driscol, and performances by Naomi Black and Alessandra McQueen accompanied the festivities and 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 to her 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 do shows across the Hampton Roads area and up and down the East Coast. They have both known ODU Out for years, and were happy to add performing for the club’s event to their extensive list of volunteer work.
“Everyone’s been so accommodating,” Black commented. “And anytime something’s going to bring everyone together like this, that’s a positive thing. Most people don’t have that positive force in their life.”
Many students came in costume to the occasion 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.
When asked what he thought about this year’s pride festival, ODU Out Treasurer Sean Bussiere said he was impressed with the overall turnout.
“We’ve had a lot more people come this year, and I think some of that can be attributed to the help we’ve received from the NOH8 campaign. We’re excited to have Naomi Black with us again. And we’re all excited to see so many unfamiliar faces. I can tell you right now I don’t know 80% 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, some of the other events they host are the Condom Olympics and Drag Bingo. For students looking to support the campus’s LGBTQ community, participate in events or join ODU Out, club meetings are held every Tuesday during Activity Hour in the Portsmouth Room of Webb Center.