By Alecia Taylor, Ayo Olagbaju, Kiara Patterson
Howard University News Service
The ballroom in the Armour J. Blackburn University Center was transformed into an elegant event space with lavender balloon arches and white drapes as Bison gathered to celebrate the seventh annual Lavender Reception on Wednesday.
“The event is to raise awareness for queer students,” said Laten Jordan, the president of CASCADE, Coalition of Activist Students Celebrating the Acceptance of Diversity and Equality, the official undergraduate LGBTQ+ student organization at Howard University.
CASCADE started the annual event during homecoming week to support lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and/or queer individuals within the Bison community through fundraising for scholarships and research. Community members are encouraged to donate online, but the reception is also an opportunity to fellowship with like-minded individuals.
“The main thing I hope that comes out of tonight is that students feel heard, seen, valued and represented,” Jordan said.
Among these recipients is Eshe Ukweli, a senior journalism major, who was recognized for her work on marginalized stories and with organizations such as GLAAD and the Human Rights Campaign.
“Honoring students at the event does promote inclusion and awareness,” Ukweli said. ”We become more than just statistics when we are seen, celebrated and honored.” However, she said this is not enough. For Ukweli, the support should continue with advocating for LGBTQ+ individuals and giving them a “seat at the table.”
As the 84th Miss Howard University, Cecily Davis acknowledged the importance of campus inclusivity.
“It’s very necessary to include all minority groups on Howard’s campus, and having this Lavender Reception highlights a major part of Howard’s campus and Howard culture,” Davis said.
“Being Black is not a monolith, so having these spaces for people to come and feel accepted and appreciated is very needed,” she added.
This year’s reception follows nearly a month after the Howard University Student Association declined to approve a referendum titled the Lavender Bill that would have allowed permanent seats on the HUSA Senate. The senate voted 13-6 against the bill–.
In the proposal by Jayda Peets, College of Arts and Science senator, the Lavender Committee’s purpose would be to “recognize the mass voice of the queer community on campus and ensure they have a seat in every room at Howard University.”
Jordan referred to the HUSA Senate decision as “disheartening.” However, he remains hopeful. “It’s my job to make sure that students are feeling heard, regardless of what else is going on in other departments and other organizations.”