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NIU student Mack H. Lewis II leads with ‘pride’

August 31, 2011
Mack H. Lewis II

Mack H. Lewis II

NIU senior sociology major Mack H. Lewis II attended this July’s Campus Pride’s fifth annual Campus Pride Summer Leadership Camp, aptly called “Camp Pride.”

The five-day long leadership institute, the only national program of its kind, is geared toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and ally student leaders from colleges and universities across the United States. The camp took place on the campus of Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

The Camp Pride curriculum includes the opportunity for individuals to learn valuable campus organizing skills, conflict management, social justice advocacy, coalition building, and strategies for creating change at their colleges and universities.

Mack had the opportunity to not only attend camp but to return for a second year as a “Pride Leader.”

“Serving as a Pride Leader helped me to step outside the box and to be comfortable with challenge,” Mack said. “I worked under pressure and learned how to manage my time wisely while serving as a mentor to new campers.”

At camp, participants chose to be in a caucus that directly represented their identity. Mack chose to facilitate the “People of Color” caucus. The caucuses focused on power and privilege and how it affects one’s identity.

“As a gay, disabled man of color, it is important for student leaders like me to learn about the intersections of identities and how it relates to being LGBT,” Mack said. “I am bi-racial and never really thought about privilege. People of color might see me as a black person, but white people might see me as a white person. I remember when I told a non-person of color in one of my classes that I was black and she replied with, ‘I never would have thought of you as a person of color.’ This was when I realized that ‘white privilege’ existed for me.”

As a result of his camp experience, Mack said he gained a sense of privilege and, along with it, a sense of responsibility.

“I learned that my identity as a person who is black is just as important as being a person who is gay-identified. I feel that we should embrace all of who we are and not have to choose an identity over another. Further, I see my black and gay identity as meaningful and beautiful.”

The Camp Pride experience allowed Mack to develop personally and find ways to improve as a leader: “As my years at NIU begin to come to an end, I want to encourage students to get involved on campus whether it is through student organizations, joining Greek organizations, or being in a leadership position.”

NIU’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Resource Center serves as a vital link where LGBTQ individuals can find a sense of community and everyone can learn about LGBTQ identity and culture. Center staff strive to create an inclusive campus community by providing support services, educational programs, advocacy and opportunities for leadership development.

For more information, call (815) 753-5428.