Millersville University’s annual event, Pridefest, is being recognized for their leadership in diversity, equity and inclusion through the Marauder Leadership awards. J. Whitlow, director of the Dr. Rita Smith Wade-El Intercultural Center, has been involved with Pridefest since October 2016. The program seeks to showcase and promote awareness of the LGBTQIA and straight ally community on campus and serves to commemorate LGBT History Month in October and National Coming Out Day, October 11. As of now, an official date has not been set for the 2020 Pridefest.
Whitlow shares what makes Pridefest an important part of Millersville’s community and why they are excited to be recognized by this award.
What do you enjoy most about Pridefest and your role in it?
As the director of the Intercultural Center, I truly enjoy being able to work with the student planning committee and other sponsoring departments and organizations to put together this annual tradition of celebrating and affirming the LGBTQ+ and Allies at Millersville University. I would say the thing I enjoy most about Pridefest is seeing the campus community come together and celebrate with pride.
What would you say were the highlights of this year’s Pridefest?
Each year, we try to make the celebration bigger and better. Listening to the students, we wanted to get a big name from Season 11 of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Securing Nina West was huge for Millersville University. Even with moving the festival/celebration from Friday to Thursday, we still had a sold out drag show and record attendance at our annual festival.
What is the goal of Pridefest?
The overall goals of Pridefest are to educate the MU community about LGBTQIA+ topics and issues, empower the MU LGBTQIA+ community by creating a space free of discrimination, hate, violence and inequity, connect the MU LGBTQIA+ community to beneficial relationships and supportive resources and to celebrate the MU LGBTQIA+ community through safe, diverse and educational programming.
What makes Pridefest stand out?
To me, I think this is a very unique and powerful program. I believe that MU Pridefest is a huge institutional statement of collaboration and celebration.
What have you gained by being a part of Pridefest?
As the director of the Intercultural Center, I continue to be in awe of the amazing commitment students have to this program. This program can’t be successful without collaboration and student commitment each year, it’s not even a question, people are committed to what the event celebrates and each year, I learn that programs such as this have a huge impact on student connection and belonging.
How do you feel about Pridefest being recognized through the Marauder Leadership awards?
Having Pridefest/Coming Out Week be recognized through the Marauder Leadership awards is a huge honor. This past year was the inaugural Coming Out Week at MU and we were able to have an intentional full week of programming leading up to MU Pridefest and National Coming Out Day. The nomination and selection to receive the Leadership in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Program means that Pridefest meets our goals, affirms members of our community and elevates a message of the importance of visibility, acceptance and love.