The Office of Common Ground is currently accepting nominations for the Ally of the Year Award, an honor that will be presented to one faculty or staff member and one student who have had a positive impact on the LGBTQ community at University of Richmond.
“We are looking for dedicated allies who have really done the work to build community, promote equity and justice, and work in solidarity with the LGBTQ community on campus,” said Ted Lewis, associate director of Common Ground for LGBTQ Campus Life.
Members of the LGBTQ community and allies of the community are eligible for the award, said junior Wesley Meredith, a co-facilitator of Student Alliance for Sexual Diversity.
Meredith said an ally could be someone who was not necessarily in the LGBTQ community, but a person who has made an established commitment to advocating for that community on campus.
“LGBTQ people in general remain a kind of vulnerable population,” Glyn Hughes, director of Common Ground, said. “Being out and being visible comes with certain risks. So to have allies that recognize that and that are working with people who are vulnerable is really important to this sort of long term addressing of this vulnerability.”
The Allies of the Year will be honored at the university’s second Lavender Graduation Ceremony on April 17 in the Jepson Alumni Center, Lewis said.
“Lavender Graduation is a time for us to honor LGBTQ and ally seniors for all their hard work on campus and in the community,” Lewis said.
Lewis said some students in the LGBTQ community were “out” at school, but were unable to be “out” at home, and could not share some of their achievements in this community with their families.
“We wanted to provide a space where we could fully recognize and celebrate all their great work,” Lewis said. “We wanted to show them that their campus family cared for them and was there to honor their accomplishments.”
Lavender Graduation, a ceremony that is also held at other universities around the country, was first held at Richmond last year as part of the inaugural year for LGBTQ Campus Life, Lewis said.
Meredith said the ceremony was called Lavender Graduation because the color lavender was a symbol of the LGBTQ community, and had been associated with early LGBTQ advocacy groups.
The ceremony features keynote addresses from a student and an alumnus and a procession of participating seniors from all five schools, Lewis said.
Meredith said in light of the recent controversial comments made by board of trustees member Paul Queally, Lavender Graduation was a much-needed time for healing among the LGBTQ community and its allies.
“It’s a place where they can be affirmed in the work that they have done and not be so discouraged having someone who sits on the board of trustees who says these homophobic and misogynistic and trans-misogynistic comments,” Meredith said. “Specifically with the Ally of the Year Award, it shows that their work is appreciated and that it’s necessary, and that there are still a lot of folks on campus who value it very much.”
Contact reporter Brennan Long brennan.long