Texas Rising partnered with the LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus to host a Pride festival on April 23.
The event was originally planned for April 16 but was rescheduled and moved to the third floor of the Baker Pattillo Student Center Parking Garage due to rain.
Student vendors were invited to sell handmade items from their personal businesses. Jordan Butts, a junior pre-law major from Kilgore, sold stickers from her art studio; Taylor Davis, a senior theatre major and art minor from Montgomery, sold art from her art store, Orange Slice and Kaitlyn McDearmont, a senior theatre education major from Sulphur Springs, sold artwork, zines and spiritual items from their table.
According to Texas Rising President Hailee Mouch, the event was a party with chances to win prizes and grab free merch. She described the evening as “a great night with a great atmosphere, a safe space to express yourself freely.”
Meaghan Morton, director of communications for the LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus, said she believes events such as these are not just important to LGBTQ+ culture, but also to allies and cis-het people.
“This isn’t just a fun time. It’s a way for us all to network and build a community that has struggled in the past to become established on campus,” Morton said.
The event was held to celebrate Pride while also bringing attention to multiple harmful bills that target the LGBTQ+ community, Mouch said.
“These bills include a ban which would make it so trans athletes couldn’t participate in sports with the gender they identify as, and also a bill which would criminalize transitional healthcare for youth,” she said.
Texas Rising set up a table to inform students on these bills along with a link to allow better sex education in public schools.
Texas Rising’s Executive Board has plans to partner with other organizations on campus this year, including another Pride, Texas Rising Vice President Caitlyn Shrewsberry said.
She believes building a relationship with the community is important in working to accomplish the organization’s goals and creating an active community.
“You know the phrase ‘Think global, act local’? If everyone cares about their community and making a difference, the world can change bottom up,” Shrewsberry said.
She encourages students to vote in local elections on May 1.