Music filled the Madison Union ballroom as people gathered to celebrate diversity at JMU. Tuesday night, SGA’s Diversity Committee put on its third annual I, Too, Am JMU: These Are My Colors & This is My Community event. This year, the main topic was the LGBTQ community. Anyone was welcome to attend, regardless of their sexual orientation, and share their stories.
Local drag queen Genesis Knight spoke at the event. Knight performed at the Artful Dodger and currently performs at Clementine. She talked about her life growing up and experience in Harrisonburg.
“I was lonely as a kid,” Knight said. “The only friend that I had was myself, and when I moved to Harrisonburg, Virginia, I went to my first drag show. There, I saw someone as big as I was, as confident as I wished I could be.”
Knight moved from Chicago to Harrisonburg as a teenager and was Miss Gay Harrisonburg Newcomer '18. The pageant is put on by Rhinestone Productions and honors drag queens. There are few events in Harrisonburg that give drag queens the spotlight, and the pageant brings together a unique group of people.
“We need to stick together, and that is one thing that I never saw in my life until we moved to Harrisonburg,” Knight said.
The Diversity Committee brought various members of JMU’s LGBTQ community together to make a video about their experiences on campus. The students in the video talked about their relationships with their families and friends, coming out and LGBTQ organizations at JMU. Although everyone in the video had different experiences at JMU, they were able to connect by sharing.
A discussion followed the video, asking about people’s opinions of the community, especially the JMU community, and their experiences with it. Many people had a hard time finding a community until they came to JMU and discovered the different groups and organizations. Even now, they still don’t always feel like they fit in or that JMU does enough. The night ended with a live performance by Knight. The audience members, including senior IDLS major Sam Amey and senior CSD major Morgann Henn, were dancing along with Knight. Some even joined Knight on stage.
“I feel like this group of people don’t really get to share their stories on this scale; it’s an opportunity for them to share their stories,” Blain Tariku, a senior social work major and member of the Diversity Committee, said.
This was the last big event of the year for the Diversity Committee. The first I, Too, Am JMU event showcased the African American community at JMU, and last year’s showcased the Latino community. The Diversity Committee was excited to put on a third event to celebrate the school’s LGBTQ community. Since the community doesn’t often receive much attention at JMU and doesn’t have many events about them, the committee felt it was time to change that.
“I think this is important because there a lot of the students on campus who aren’t aware of the services offered to LGBT students,” Kiera Cheatham, a senior psychology major and member of the Diversity Committee, said.
This was the first time some students have attended an event by the Diversity Committee and experienced the LGBTQ community. Amey and Henn both studied abroad in Ghana last summer and were encouraged to attend by other people they studied abroad with. They’re straight and cisgender, but they both enjoyed the event and are excited to attend more events like this.
“JMU stresses diversity so much and I think events like this show diversity in a multitude of ways, and I think events like this are important to put on to have a correlation of what JMU is saying to everyone and what is actually going on on our campus,” Amey said.
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