LGBTQA conference brings people together at Moravian

February 11, 2018 marks the day of the LGBTQIA LVAIC Conference, in which students (LGBT+) allies, faculty members and professors from colleges in the Lehigh Valley–and even some students from neighboring high schools (Northampton Area High School)–congregate to discuss LGBTQIA issues.  

Niki Lopez, the keynote speaker, who helped introduce the event, talked about how it was to be a minority, a Latinx queer American, in an LGBTQA community, which sometimes excludes people of color. She also performed some of her poetry on her background: what it meant to be a queer Puerto Rican woman in this country’s current political climate, especially with Puerto Rico struggling under the burden of the devastation that Hurricane Maria left in its wake, leaving parts of the island without electricity, running water, and adequate resources.  

Lopez discussed what it meant to be a queer woman of color in the Women’s March Movement, as well as within the LGBTQIA community. She emphasized the importance of intersectionality, that the definition of queer should be inclusive of race, ethnicity, class, and that all forms of life and existence can be forms of resistance against the status quo–and that this needs to occur, if change is to happen. To make this point, she also drew on her favorite book, “A Wrinkle in Time,” written by Madeleine L’Engle.  

Lopez gave the audience five tips on living life to keep in mind as we go through our times in college and afterwards. She advised us to live authentically and tell your story anytime you can tell it; to find your tribe, the people who will support you, rock out with you, who may not always be your blood family; to take care of your elders, meaning pay homage to those who came before you; and to practice radical love, and interrogate yourself; to exist in a world that told you not to exist; to expose yourself in the art of you, to create in a space, and as you move through space, have conversations about race, and don’t be afraid to call yourself out at the end of the day, if you are in the wrong.   

She also spoke about intersectional resistance, and encouraged the audience to think  about who’s left out of the table/the conversation, and try to be more inclusive– to add more people to this conversation if they are missing out, if that’s the conversation they should be partaking in.  

In addition, she discussed the pink hats worn at the women’s march–why she thought this was problematic, and racially exclusive. She argued that privilege also extends: white people more comfortable choosing multiple identities, POC, more trouble, because they also deal with discrimination on top of finding an identity that they fit into. 

 Noalani Hendricks, senior English and global studies student, presented at Moravian about positive queer representation within Muslims in the United States.  

She said, “I felt supported. There was a sizable CCC turnout that attended my presentation, made up of students and my history minor advisor Dr. Monahan. Diversity and Inclusion director Tatiana Diaz kept the energy positive, supportive, and light!” Her Topic was from her larger Global Studies Capstone,  when she attended the conference during her junior year, she noticed to her knowledge that there wasn’t any workshops about queer Muslim representation, and she wanted to make a change to that this year.  

Francisa Sepuvelda, junior political science and global studies double major, attended the conference as well, said she enjoyed going to the different workshops. She learned about leadership, and “how to link your moral code” to the leadership roles that she is in. She said how she learned about sexuality versus romantic attraction, and the different terms that are still evolving within the GSD community.  

Frances Boshell, Assistant Director of Residential Education and Leadership, also presented at the conference.  

“I think it’s important for students to be able to come together and talk about what is happening in the community and what they are seeing in their campuses. I think having staff members and students together from across the valley allows an exchange of ideas and sense of what is happening on the local, national and international scale. I very much enjoyed it. It was great to have not only students but staff and faculty from Cedar Crest there as well. I attended the keynote, my own workshop that I presented and the workshop about talking about public spaces.” 

She also commented that, “In Higher Education, we spend a lot of time talking at students through lectures and workshops. However, I felt this would be a good opportunity to from students about their experiences (undergraduate or graduate) about their experiences and what could be improved within the areas of Student Life (ranging from Admissions process, Orientation, in the class all the way until students come alums). I think it is important to get student voices when we look at things that could impact students experiences and allow students to enjoy their educational experiences.” 

There is no word yet on where the next LGBTQA LVAIC conference will be next year, but you can bet your bottom dollar that it’s not going away. We are here and queer. It’s time to get used to it!  

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