LGBTQ + lawyer and former UMSL program coordinator returns to celebrate lavender graduation ceremony – UMSL Daily
For the old University of Missouri-St. Louis LGBTQ program coordinator Harry hawkins, it was a point of pride to give the opening speech of the UMSL Lavender graduation ceremony 2021, an annual ceremony to honor LGBTQ + students and their accomplishments, successes and leadership.
Hawkins served as UMSL very first LGBTQ + coordinator from 2017-2020 and is currently Deputy Director of Center Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender at Case Western Reserve University.
He told the audience online that during his time at UMSL, he saw so many LGBTQ + students shine in the face of adversity.
“Being LGBTQ these days is adversity and great promise,” said Hawkins. “We all know how resilient you all are. Some of you are first generation students who are working to support yourself and possibly your families as well. And many of you, during this time, have experienced your authentic selves. I hope this pandemic has shown you what many of us have already seen and that each of you are brave, beautiful and resilient individuals. “
Eight students have registered to be part of this year’s Lavender Graduation, which is open to students completing their bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate degree.
Lavender’s graduation began at the University of Michigan 25 years ago by an educator and author Ronni sanlo, who identifies as a Jewish lesbian, to celebrate the achievements of LGBTQ + students. There are currently over 200 lavender graduation ceremonies at colleges and universities.
Hawkins, who also worked as an organizer for the Human rights campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization, said he was dedicated to advocating for the LGBTQ + community when the death of a college friend made him realize he couldn’t isolate oneself from the injustices suffered by people in the LGBTQ + community.
“LGBTQ people are being killed, discriminated against,” he said. “I can’t just sit on the fence, be selfish, reap the benefits. And so since that moment, on a beach in 2008, I’ve really dedicated my life to wanting to improve my community and to improve all the people in that community, including myself. And to make things better where we don’t have LGBTQ people kicked out of their homes, we’re not killing them. “
Hawkins told the graduates, along with their friends, families and allies who were listening, that in order for them to “go out and eat their ass and change the world” they need to find their “why”.
“If you know your ‘why’ you’ll have your feet firmly in the ground and all the amazing things that you are,” Hawkins said. “In these times of crisis due to the death of a friend in college, the Pulse nightclub shooting and COVID-19 over the past year, I always think back to the ‘why’. Because that “why” is my foundation of clarity and strength in those times when I feel shaky. “
Moderator and Associate Director of Student Participation Mindy Dilley makes an important and particularly appropriate announcement at the graduation ceremony.
“I would like to share some exciting news,” Dilley said. “As of Monday, we have filled the position of LGBTQ + Diversity Coordinator here in the Student participation office. “
Dilley said the new program coordinator, whose name has not been announced, will begin in June, the nationally designated month to celebrate the LGBTQ + community.
Kudos to the following graduates who have registered to be part of the Lavender 2021 Graduation Ceremony:
- Mark A. Allen, bachelor’s degree in psychology and minor in sociology
- Renée Brugmann, master’s degree in criminology and criminal justice
- Kristine carey, doctor of education
- Samantha fairchild, license in anthropology
- Tiffany McBain, bachelor’s degree in psychology, minor in communication
- Rose Logan, bachelor’s degree in criminology and minor in psychology and sociology
- Lexi neal, Bachelor of Music and Vocal Interpretation and Minor in French
- Newberry Melody, license in anthropology
Short url: https://blogs.umsl.edu/news/?p=89319