NIU students, faculty, staff and alumni showed their pride during the 50th annual Chicago Pride Parade held June 30 on the city’s north side.
“I participated because I love showing pride in the LGBTQIA+ community,” Trevon Smith, a sophomore studying math education, said. “Pride is a great experience that brings people together and shows that our individuality makes a great community.”
Smith said it was important for the university to have a presence in the event that celebrates the LGBTQIA+ community.
“I think it’s important because students who identify as queer – especially those entering college – need to see themselves represented to feel safe and accepted,” Smith said.
And Huskies represented well.
NIU residence hall director, Chris Smith, drove a bright red convertible and dozens of people walked alongside it throughout the four mile parade route, wearing NIU spirit wear and waving rainbow flags.
“Going to the parade is quite an experience, but being in the parade is a whole different level,” Chris Smith said. “The amount of love, support and compassion that exists between strangers and groups who are working towards the same common goal was outstanding.”
Chris Smith said that the LGBTQIA+ community is a strong and vibrant one that continues to flourish at NIU and around the globe.
“It is important for not only the Chicago community to see that, but to ensure that the NIU community knows about the support that is available right here on campus,” Chris Smith said. “This is just the beginning for the great things being done by the Presidential Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, Gender and Sexuality Resource Center and Prism (NIU’s student run LGBTQ organization). If ever there was a time to push forward, now is that time.”
Molly Holmes, director of NIU’s Gender and Sexuality Resource Center, shared the sentiment.
“Events like this help us connect with alumni as well as passionate LGBTQ+ individuals and allies on campus,” Holmes said. “We are always striving to do more to create inclusive opportunities and campus culture.”
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, the city’s first openly gay mayor, marched with her wife, Amy Eshleman, and served as one of the parade’s seven grand marshals.
Holmes said it was an exciting event to be part of.
“Everyone was energized by a cheering crowd as we passed by,” Holmes said. “We saw many who were alums of NIU who were excited to see NIU represented in such a way; there was definitely an energy and Huskie spirit between parade participants and spectators.”
Holmes said that participating in the parade that marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots was a moving experience.
“It was not lost on the group that we were walking in the footsteps of those who paved the path toward LGBTQIA+ inclusion and equity,” Holmes said.
Most importantly, Holmes said, members of the NIU community walked the parade route to exemplify how they are committed to the ongoing work of equity and inclusion on campus.
“Participation in the parade provides visibility to our values; we know that we can contribute to President Freeman’s commitment of diversity and inclusion by doing work at home to make our campus one of the best in the country for LGBTQIA+ students, faculty and staff.”