Activism, education drive PRIDE!’s fall programming


This semester, PRIDE! Kent plans to shift its programming from a social focus to a focus on education and activism within the LGBTQ community.

Arbrion Chambliss

This semester, PRIDE! Kent’s leadership plans to shift the group’s programming to reflect its roots in LGBTQ activism and education.

PRIDE! was founded in 1971 as a liberation front for Kent State’s LGBTQ community, but in recent years, the group has built community primarily through social events, said Brandon Stephens, PRIDE! president and junior political science and criminal justice major.

This year, the organization’s events will focus on education and activism, partnering with groups such as Townhall II and Planned Parenthood to organize programs including STD and HIV education and testing, as well as a speaker series, Stephens said.

“We’re still able to provide a warm and welcoming social environment and a safety net for LGBTQ students,” he said. “But we’re also educating them, and education is our absolute biggest tool in achieving equality in all realms in the LGBTQ community.”

Last week, PRIDE! kicked off its educational programming with a drag show competition, which included a presentation on the history of drag.

Along with events like the drag show, the group hopes to bring attention to important issues, said PRIDE! vice president Karen Isaacs, a freshman electronic media major.

A speaker from Kent State’s Sexual and Relationship Violence Support Services will lead an informational session during the group’s meeting in the Governance Chambers Thursday at 8 p.m. PRIDE! is also preparing programming for National Coming Out Day on Oct. 11.

“Coming Out Day will be a big day of being proud of who you are and accepting it,” Stephens said.

Stephens said he noticed that PRIDE! attendance drops throughout the semester, but retention is higher when the group hosts outreach and education events.

“Year after year, our members are more involved and more eager to learn,” he said. “That’s really driven us as an executive board to stand up for what our membership wants and make the changes that our membership feels is necessary.”

Tori Swarm, a senior conflict management major who’s been active in PRIDE! since her freshman year, said she’s looking forward to seeing more outreach and activism within the organization this year.

“I’d love to see us taking a stance on different issues and actually making our voice known,” she said.

Isaacs said the organization plans to recruit members and keep them involved throughout the semester with outreach activities.

“We’re focusing more on creating a community where people can feel proud to be who they are,” she said.

Stephens and Isaacs said they hope to help PRIDE! members feel comfortable in their own skin and with their identity.

“I want PRIDE! to be recognized as the organization who tried the hardest for its members,” Stephens said. “I want people to know no matter what, we always did what was in the best interest of our membership and the entire LGBTQ community here at Kent State.”

Contact Arbrion Chambliss at [email protected].