A University Police car decorated in rainbow colors drove proudly around North Campus Wednesday afternoon.
It marked UB’s first ever LGBTQ Pride Parade.
UB’s Intercultural and Diversity Center hosted the parade with support from other campus organizations as part of UB’s pride week. Roughly 80 marchers danced along the Academic Spine for 12 minutes with colorful flags and signs, while songs like Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” blasted on a portable speaker. A pride festival took place after the march, as workers served popcorn and cotton candy to over 200 people in the Student Union.
Rutuja Sawant, a diversity associate for IDC, pitched the idea for an on-campus parade to her colleagues.
The junior media studies major initially thought it wasn’t achievable since she had no prior experience creating events. Luckily, she said, the event took shape with the help of sponsors like the Office of Inclusive Excellence, oSTEM and the Residence Hall Association.
Since pride parades in Buffalo are usually held during summer, Sawant said students who are back home don’t get a chance to march with their friends. She thought a parade for the university would be a good idea to get peers to come together.
“Even though I didn't know exactly how to start in the beginning, with all this support, I feel like we were able to achieve [the parade],” Sawant said.
The police car which led the parade was originally supposed to just stop traffic for the march, according to Chief of Police Chris Bartolomei.
“We simply wanted our LGBTQ community to know that we are here [to] protect and support them,” Bartolomei wrote in an email.
Amber Rivera, a first year master’s student in chemistry, displayed a sign that read “We Should Be Protesting.” She said it serves as a call back to the Stonewall Riots in 1969, where members of the gay community staged protests against police. Rivera thinks people are still complicit with injustice against transgender people and should keep fighting.
“[Now] we have the police leading the parade, meanwhile back in 1969 … the police were harassing LGBT people,” Rivera said. “So I think what’s always important to remember is that we should still be fighting, especially for trans people.”
Despina Stratigakos, the vice provost for the Office of Inclusive Excellence, gave a short speech to start the event. She said the parade was a chance “to inspire and to say loudly and clearly that we are proud.”
MairéadFarinacci, a first-year master’s student in comparative literature, marched with her girlfriend Rivera.
During the parade, Farinacci held up a sign reading “decolonize your pride.” It’s a reminder, she said, that LGBTQ people still face discrimination and she mentioned President Donald Trump’s transgender military ban. By “decolonizing” your pride, she said, you delve deeper into supporting the community you are in.
Kaylie Brinkman, a freshman biology major, said the march was her first time walking as part of an LGBTQ parade. While she would have liked it to go on for a bit longer, she said it was nice knowing there are other LGBTQ students at the university.
“I'm bisexual, and I saw a lot of bisexual flags –– and there were like transgender flags, pansexual flags –– and it's nice to see every one of them honored,” she said.
Sawant hopes to have a bigger budget next year for an even larger parade. She said a drag show for next year’s festival is “a must.”
Cian Gonzales is a staff writer and can be reached at email@example.com.