By Ann Daramola

Rows and rows of black and white silk-screened T-shirts lie on the sunny floor of the Lionel Cantú Gay, Lesbian, Transgender, Bisexual and Intersex Resource Center, as students carefully count and stack them.

The students and the T-shirts are part of the Queer Awareness Campaign (QAC) kickoff. For the campaign, queer students, staff and their allies will inundate the campus with a series of coalition-building events and programs throughout spring quarter.

Julia Schwab is the program coordinator for the Day of Silence, a day set aside to recognize the often-censored queer community. She spoke earnestly about her goals for the event.

“We don’t want to just make it a queer event,” she said, emphasizing the outreach to other communities affected by silencing.

Over a span of three days, QAC volunteers will go into dining halls and hand out information cards about the Day of Silence. Along with the cards, QAC volunteers will have the t-shirts available to sell for sliding-scale donations of $3 to $5. The t-shirts are all silk-screened by hand, a feat volunteers accomplished earlier this week.

The T-shirt campaign will culminate with a talk from keynote speaker Imani Henry next Wednesday. Henry is known for his work in bridging the gaps between communities of color and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities.

Tam Welch, program coordinator for the Cantú Center, talked excitedly about Henry’s work in connecting communities. She said that since Henry’s work connects the suppression in multiple communities, it fits the goals of this year’s Day of Silence.

Although Apr. 18 is the official date of the Day of Silence, students and staff in the Queer Awareness Campaign plan on making its impact last. In an attempt to emphasize the need to build alliances with other marginalized people, students are reaching out to several campus organizations dedicated to breaking the silences surrounding their communities.

Schwab is keen on the importance of building a coalition, but recognizes that some students, though interested, may not come to a queer event on their own accord.

“If you’re not going to take the initiative, we’re making it available to you,” she said. “We’re coming to you.”

The Day of Silence was originally a high school event created by students who wanted to fight the hostility toward gay, bisexual or transgender people on their campus, and so QAC coordinators are accordingly bringing in two bus loads of high schools students to hear Henry speak. Welch hopes that informal mentoring will take place between the college and high school groups.

Kas Ocasio-Pare, co-coordinator for the Day of Silence and program coordinator for Gender Awareness Day, hopes the campaign will break traditional ideas.

“I want people to observe fluidity in gender, since the mainstream locks us in a binary that we have to be molded into,” she said.

Ocasio-Pare is also reaching out to all communities besides those traditionally associated with gay, lesbian and bisexual groups because, as she said, “Gender affects us all.”

Many events and programs are a part of the Queer Awareness Campaign. Other events in this month’s lineup include an art gallery reception in the Gay and Lesbian Art (GALA) Gallery at the Cantú Center today, and a queer leaders’ strategy meeting with Imani Henry next Thursday at Kresge College.

The Cantú Center and volunteers for the QAC will be celebrating Gender Awareness Day on May 1, 2007.