The Q Center hosted its eighth-annual Lavender Celebration on April 27 to recognize the achievements of graduating students who are part of Binghamton University’s LGBTQ+ community.

Beginning at 10:30 a.m. in Old Union Hall, this year’s Lavender Celebration consisted of a brunch, remarks by administrators, speeches by a professor and graduate student, a rainbow cording ceremony and the Pride Awards. Nick Martin, the Q Center’s associate director, explained the celebration’s significance.

“Lavender Celebration is an important recognition of hardships that LGBTQ+ students face during college linked to their systemically marginalized identities, as well as a celebration of their persistence and success in the face of those hardships,” Martin wrote in an email. “A celebration like this is identity-affirming for queer and trans students and highlights their important contributions to the University community among friends, family and supporters.”

The color lavender has a long history of significance in the LGBTQ+ community. A combination of the pink triangle gay men were forced to wear in concentration camps and the black triangle to identify lesbians as war prisoners in Nazi Germany — the light shade of purple was reclaimed and turned into a symbol of pride during the LGBTQ+ civil rights movement, according to Martin. This was apparent at the Lavender Celebration, where tables were adorned with lavender tablecloths, flowers and sachets of dried lavender as centerpieces.

Attendees served themselves various brunch foods from a buffet line and situate themselves at their tables to listen to speeches. Opening remarks were by Martin, Karen Jones, the University’s vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), and Matthew Winston, Jr., the executive director for alumni engagement. In her speech, Jones emphasized the work that the Division of DEI is doing to create a more inclusive campus environment and the importance of living life authentically.

“Regardless of who decides what legislation they’re going to impose, what regulations they’re going to write, who’s occupying the seat of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue — we have a right to live, we have a right to exist,” Jones said.

Izzie De Jesus ‘21, a third-year graduate student studying higher education and student affairs, gave the graduate address at the celebration. In her speech, she discussed challenges she has faced as a queer person of color, the importance of respecting yourself and prioritizing mental health, as well as the overarching theme of the Lavender Celebration.

“In a world that often overlooks or marginalizes the LGBTQ community, this celebration serves as a resounding declaration that we are here, and we are never going away,” De Jesus said. “The Lavender Celebration is a testament to our progress and the work that still lies ahead.”

Mansha Rahman, a sophomore double-majoring in art and design and Spanish, expressed their excitement and gratitude for the annual celebration.

“Lavender Celebration is just this huge celebration of the queer community on campus that [BU] has not always had, and I’m really grateful for that,” Rahman said. “I’m really grateful for the celebration, to see a lot of my really good friends that are graduating and I’m really excited for my own celebration in two years.”

Following the speeches was the graduate cording procession, where graduating LGBTQ+ students were announced and given a rainbow cord they can wear at their commencement ceremonies in May.

While Lavender Graduations are not unique to BU, a distinctive aspect of the event was the Pride Awards, where students and faculty members were nominated based on their contributions to BU’s queer community. The awards — including the OUTstanding Grad Award, Activism Award, “Sunshine” Award, Community Service Award and Faculty/Staff Advocacy in Action Award — were given to one nominee of each category, along with a trophy.

Luis Hernandez, a senior majoring in biology who serves as the president of SHADES, a campus organization for queer students of color, was the recipient of the Community Service Award. Hernandez expressed his appreciation for the Lavender Celebration.

“It was really nice having an official closing for this chapter of my life,” Hernandez said. “I think it was very nice to see a space for queer people to be recognized, because sometimes we don’t get that recognition outside in regular spaces … I really put a lot of time and effort into the queer community, so I’m very grateful that I was recognized for all the hard work I’ve put in.”

Rahman conveyed the importance of hosting annual Lavender Celebrations at BU.

“I think it goes without showing that the LQBTQ community needs better representation everywhere in the world,” Rahman said. “I think it needs to become more apparent that there is a very, very large LGBTQ community on campus … LGBTQ+ people go through a lot in their education to be able to get where they are, and to be able to graduate with a degree and be out and proud … that’s why I think it’s just so incredibly important that we have this every year.”