Large rainbow flags draped some attendees, while smaller ones rippled in others’ hands. Drivers honked in support as they drove past. Bubbles floated through the air, their rainbow tint reflecting the bright colors of the crowd.
Members and allies of the UC Santa Cruz LGBTQIA+ community gathered to participate in the Kresge Multicultural Education Center’s (KMEC) 14th annual PRIDE event on May 11.
Kresge PRIDE 2019 began with a march from Quarry Plaza to Kresge College, stopping at college courtyards to play games like “I love my neighbor.” With each pause, the crowd amassed a larger following, ballooning from 10 to over 60 people.
“Liberation Without Exception” was the theme of this year’s PRIDE. Organizers sought to include members of the LGBTQIA+ community who feel marginalized or excluded from conventional Pride celebrations. Kajus Masalkovas, KMEC external co-chair and PRIDE 2019 publicity chair, explained that resources and attention are disproportionately offered to segments of the larger group.
“We can’t just focus on doing work for people in our community who already have access to a lot of things,” he said. “So we tried to bring a lot of attention to what’s happening with the queer trans people of color in our community. We wanted to bring more […] energy around that.”
Keynote speaker Yosimar Reyes reflected the intersectionality of the event. He read a collection of his poems which focused on the challenges he faces as a queer man in a Mexican culture where masculinity is rigidly defined, and delivered his talk in Spanish and English.
“In white capitalistic wannabe inclusive parades of individuals / Nosotros somos Two Spirit / And their pride is not ours / Because as they celebrate pop stars / And liberate their bodies / We are still caged / In their system / Still silent,” Reyes recited.
KMEC’s team of 10 students began planning PRIDE 2019 in the fall, but the process kicked into high gear in winter quarter. The team began to publicize the event in the spring.
After about two hours of winding its way through campus, the march arrived at Kresge College, where the PRIDE festival was already underway. Campus organizations including the Cantú Queer Center and Party Like a Slug lined the courtyard behind tables.
The sweet smells of popcorn, churros and grilled corn on the cob filled the air of the celebration. Grupo Folklórico Los Mejicas and Isang Himig, among other student organizations, performed or spoke in front of a crowd of nearly 200 people.
“My hope for [PRIDE 2019] is that it allows people to see that there are people in their community who do care about them, that they do have support here,” said Kajus Masalkovas. “It can be really hard to see that, ‘whoa, there are people that are like me here.’”
PRIDE offered a space for all LGBTQIA+ people to come together and celebrate their identities. In an ever-shifting political landscape, the community is increasingly targeted by Americans emboldened by coarse national discourse.
“It’s kind of a really tough year to be gay,” said second-year student and march attendee Leah Cohen. “Nationally, it’s a rough place. It’s a scarier and scarier time.”
In spite of this indignation, the march remained a largely jubilant affair. At each college, marchers had the opportunity to make crafts, like tutus sprinkled with glitter, or rejuvenate with colorful fruit kebabs and other themed snacks.
“Really, [the event is] just to have a fun time. A lot of events are about education, or about fighting for a social cause,” said Anna Romstad, a first-year student and member of KMEC’s March Committee. “Sometimes, you just need to get the queer community together and have a blast.”