The Q Center held their seventh-annual Lavender Celebration this past Friday for graduating students.
The Lavender Celebration is a combination of a traditional Lavender Graduation, an event where LGBTQ+ students’ experiences are recognized and celebrated as they leave school, and the Pride Awards, which is unique to the Q Center and recognizes LGBTQ+ students who went above and beyond during their time in college. During this celebration, the Q Center did a cording ceremony where rainbow cords were given to all graduating members before the awards were announced. This spring’s Lavender Celebration had the most in attendance, with 82 soon-to-be graduates. The ceremony added an additional award for a total of six awards, with a keynote address featuring Garrett ImbrendaPolitano, senior counselor at the Binghamton University Counseling Center.
Nick Martin, assistant director of the Q Center, said the keynote address speakers are all members of LGBTQ+ community who graduated from BU that did great things while at the University and have stayed in the Binghamton area to continue to support the community.
In ImbrendaPolitano’s speech, they talked about fostering a community of support in which everyone is trying their best.
“I genuinely believe all of you here can change the world,” ImbrendaPolitano said. “What I mean by that is that I expect all of you to make a difference in some way. Sometimes changing the world looks like paying for somebody’s groceries who’s in line in front of you. Sometimes it could be using your pronouns openly and making others feel comfortable and included.”
The goal of the Q Center Pride Awards is to understand and recognize the graduate’s accomplishments in the BU community. Martin said that while all nominees embody what the award represents, only one student may receive a physical award. The OUTstanding Grad Award recipient was Blessin McFarlane, a senior majoring in English. The Activism Award recipient was Noah Zimmer, a senior majoring in geological sciences. The Sunshine Award recipient was Sheyla Santana Escoto, a senior majoring in history. The Community Service Award recipient was Luis Hernandez, a senior majoring in biological sciences. The Faculty/Staff Advocacy in Action Award recipient was Tina Chronopoulos, associate professor of ancient Mediterranean studies and the Q Center Queer of the Year went to Clare Wiberg, a senior majoring in integrative neuroscience.
Wren Evans, a senior majoring in environmental studies, was one of the nominees for the Sunshine Award. Additionally, he gave the graduating address following ImbrendaPolitano. Evans said that he never thought he could live authentically as himself and share a space with those around him.
“I thought I was alone in my struggles,” Evans said. “[BU] has brought so many wonderful queer and trans people into my life who I admire and respect for being open and out every day. In an era where every day there is more news about hateful acts against us, a strong community is more important than anything.”
Donald Hall, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, agreed with Evans’ idea that a strong community is important. Hall said that the queer community helped him to “survive college” and gave him friends he hopes to know for the rest of his life.
To the graduating students, Hall said that diverse and minority communities need to stick together, especially during these times.
“Over the course of the next 18 months or so, as we get toward the 2024 presidential election, we are going to be used as scapegoats, as villains,” Hall said. “We are going to be abused and ridiculed, etc. Stand strong for each other. Stand with our trans siblings. Stand with our siblings of color.”
Both Hall and Evans called to celebrate the graduating students’ experiences and struggles during this Lavender Celebration.
“To celebrate our accomplishments together as a community is incredible,” Evans said. “There is resistance in our joy. Our pride in ourselves and how we succeed and we thrive, even though every day there is a new threat, is a reflection of our strength as queer and trans people. So let’s revel in our accomplishments and take time to celebrate ourselves.”