Originally published October 8, 2014.
Drag performances, free HIV testing and LGBTQIA-friendly vendors were just some of the events that took place at Millersville University’s first ever PrideFest, held at the SMC Promenade & Patio Oct. 3. This event was put together by Shaq Glover, a senior at Millersville, with Richard Turner, known as drag performer Whitley Nycole DeAire’, Miss Central PA Pride 2014, as a big support.
“The fact that this campus has never had a Pride festival before was very sad to me,” Glover said, mentioning that there has been a demand for a pride event in previous years.
“This campus needed an event that was tailored to educate, showcase and foster pride in the LGBT+ community at MU. I took this need as both a challenge and an opportunity to expand the representation of the LGBT+ community and to provide this campus with an event that was entertaining, educational and meaningful,” Glover said.
PrideFest was met with unrivaled support from nearly everyone involved. Glover said: “I received a lot of support throughout the entire process of coordinating PrideFest. I believe that since so many people on this campus—students, faculty, administration, organizations, members of the neighboring communities—have been waiting for an event like this to happen at Millersville, they were eager to hop on board.”
Many components helped this event come together, including the President’s Commission on Gender and Sexual Diversity, Center for Student Involvement and Leadership, Allies and University Activities Board, which provided funding to make this event not only possible, but free for all. There were also many donors who provided giveaways, food and many other things. “The hard work of everyone who believed in this project and willingly supported it does not go unnoticed or unappreciated,” Glover said.
Despite the slight threat of rain, PrideFest went off without a hitch. Men and women in drag took the stage and performed their renditions of famous songs while lip-synching and dancing.
“It was a amazing day. The turnout was more than we expected,” Turner said. “It is always exciting to see the smiling faces in the crowd.”
“The outcome of PrideFest exceeded my initial expectations,” Glover said. The audience members interacted well with the performers and seemingly enjoyed the show. “The crowd kept growing as the night went on. The attendees interacted well with the performers and vendors, and vice versa. From the picture and videos, I can tell that the attendees got a lot out of the event and ultimately had a great time!” Glover said.
People from all walks of life attended this event, but not one single protester. There were many churches and organizations along with the vendors that promoted diversity and equality. Both Glover and Turner agreed, a lot of hard work went into this event, but it all paid off in the end.
“I get emotional every time I think back to all of the smiles I saw in that audience. There was such a feeling of acceptance in the air, which was my goal. I wanted everyone to have fun, but I also wanted everyone to feel proud to express their individuality, which is not always the easiest thing to do in everyday life. However, for those three hours, I got to see so many different walks of life unite,” Glover said.
“We are all walks of life and we are all different, [but] we are human beings. I believe the participation was amazing, and the entertainers kept the crowd there,” Turner said.
Just because PrideFest is over doesn’t mean that Millersville’s pride ends there. More and more things are being done on a daily basis to ensure that the pride and love for LGBT+ students remains concrete and established.
This event did raise awareness and acceptance for the LGBT+ community, and invited people to show who they really are. The main objectives of PrideFest were to educate, promote awareness and foster pride, and the drag performers, Turner and Glover made sure those values were held above everything else. Glover and Turner emphasize the idea of pride, and try to make everyone around them feel as though they can be who they are.
“Always be yourself. Never let anyone tell you who or what to be in life. Remember we are all born naked, ‘The rest is just Drag!’” Turner said.
“Don’t ever let someone make you feel unashamed of who you are. Even when you feel alone, there are resources and people available on this campus that can empathize with your situation and help you overcome the adversities we face as LGBT+ members. Seek them out. Provide a voice for those who don’t have one. Speak up. Be proud of who you are. Love and accept yourself. Believe in those words and spread that message to others,” Glover said.
As for now, there is no set date for the next PrideFest, or even any guarantee there will be another. It all depends on the motivation and intentions of the generations of students to pass through Millersville University. While it would be hard to top the spirit and pride showcased from this event, anything is possible. All in all, our first ever PrideFest has definitely gone down in Millersville history.