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Students celebrate love at Miami's pride parade

Video: Emily Brustoski, Derek Stamberger

The Miami University LGBTQA+ advocacy organization, Spectrum, held their second-ever pride parade after a six-year hiatus last Saturday, April 13.

Spectrum is a student-led organization for students of all sexual and gender identities devoted to raising awareness and creating community through education and activism.

PFLAG and Tint, two student-lead organizations that also support LGBTQA+ students, Miami President Gregory Crawford, University Ambassador Renate Crawford and newly-elected student body president Jaylen Perkins attended.

The parade began at the sundial and traveled along the edge of campus concluding at the seal, where students and administrators spoke.

Hannah Thompson, the Associate Director of LGBTQA+ Services and Spectrum adviser, recently joined the Office of Diversity Affairs (ODA). Senior and Spectrum president Hannah Abigail Clarke joined with Thompson to bring the parade back.

Before the march, representatives from Spectrum handed out the flags representing various genders and sexualities and sheets with chants for the parade. Children also participated and handed out pronoun pins.

Nearly all of the 140 participants in the march, including just under 20 faculty members, a handful of community members and even some dogs, were dressed in clothing symbolizing pride.

Pride parades are first and foremost protests, Clarke said. While they do strive to be as fun as possible, the goal is to protest the mistreatment of those in the LGBTQA+ community.

Moments of silence were held for those who have died trying to fight for equality both before and after the march.

"I go to a lot of the events that Spectrum puts on, and this was easily the best one I've been to yet. Everyone is always so welcoming, no matter who you are or how you identify," said senior Teju Ogungbadero, a Resident Assistant (RA) for gender-inclusive housing. "For a lot of my friends, having a place that they can feel safe in being who they are is really important, and I'm just glad there are events like this march that can provide that safe space."

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There weren't any pride marches from 2012-2017 primarily due to "a lack of institutional support for the community as a whole," Clarke said.

"My first two years here it just felt disconnected, and there wasn't any sense of community," Clarke said. "[Spectrum has] done a lot to try and bring that [community], and I feel that it's been a success."

Thompson was a driving force for bringing back the parade.

"We brought back the parade last year thanks to very strong leadership in Spectrum and a lot more support from both the university and the community," Thompson said.

Rhonda Jackson, an administrative assistant with the Women's Center since 2002 and the co-president of 1809 LGBT alumni board -- the alumni group for former students who are in the LGBTQA+ community -- has been heavily involved with the LGBTQA+ community since entering her role.

"[Miami was] ranked as one of the worst universities for the LGBTQA+ community when I got here, and now we are the 47th best," Jackson said.

As the current Spectrum leadership looked to the future and the students who led the charge on bringing back the march prepared to graduate, there were doubts among them, but those doubts have been resolved.

"There will be a family of young activists who fight for our rights," Clarke said. "I am so proud to know that the children I have found, and the friends I have made, will continue to fight for, take care of and love each other after we leave."