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Bemidji State, Northwest Tech to kick off 'Proud All Year' campaign

First declared as “Gay and Lesbian Pride Month” by President Bill Clinton in 1999, Pride Month recognizes the Stonewall Riots, or Stonewall Uprising, of June 28, 1969.

Pride flag
Bemidji State University and Northwest Technical College are planning several events and initiatives for their "Proud All Year" campaign, kicking off with two panels on Wednesday, June 22 at both colleges.
(Courtesy / Pixabay)
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BEMIDJI — Bemidji State University and Northwest Technical College aim to be proud all year, expanding the meaning of Pride Month beyond the month of June.

First declared as “Gay and Lesbian Pride Month” by President Bill Clinton in 1999, Pride Month recognizes the Stonewall Riots, or Stonewall Uprising, of June 28, 1969.

New York’s Stonewall Inn, a gay bar and recreational tavern, had been raided by police and sparked a riot among bar patrons. Several days of protest and resistance to police violence sparked the LGBTQ+ movement that many communities and organizations now commemorate in June.

For BSU and NTC, June is simply the starting point of a year-long effort to implement programming and initiatives to support LGBTQ+ students, staff and faculty, as well as community members.

“We should be assessing and addressing the needs of our students and employees year-round,” Director of Civil Rights and Affirmative Action Nicholas Taylor said. “And so, we have our ‘Proud All Year’ campaign.”

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Campaign creation

Kicking off the campaign Wednesday, June 22, Taylor along with Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Director Solar Hong helped plan a panel where campus and community members will share their LGBTQ+ experiences in Bemidji and beyond.

Open to the public, NTC’s panel begins at 9 a.m. in conference room B at Northwest Technical College, with BSU’s starting at 11 a.m. in the Crying Wolf Room in the Hobson Memorial Union on the Bemidji State campus. Taylor and Hong will be part of both panels.

“We will basically share our insight and experience to increase awareness and provide insights on how individuals can advocate for the LGBTQ+ community not only within these two institutions, but the whole community,” Hong said.

One practical reason for planning Proud All Year was the opportunity to educate and support students during their time back on both campuses, which are essentially empty during Pride Month.

To have initiatives for the other 11 months of the year, BSU and NTC plan on having an institutional presence at the Second Annual Bemidji Pride event that’s scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 27.

“We’re looking at having admissions representatives, staff and faculty there versus your stereotypical diversity department being present,” Taylor added. “It’s not just (the DEI Division’s) work. It’s BSU and NTC’s work to make sure that the institution as a whole is forming that capacity to meet student needs and show representation.”

Hong detailed several educational sessions that will start once the 2022-2023 school year begins including movie discussions, initiatives to collaborate with Beaver Athletics and additional diversity lectures.

“Taking the opportunity of the panel as a good point to start these conversations, there will be a lot of events and activities that everyone can engage and be involved with,” Hong said. “Our goal is to take opportunities starting from this month to continue conversations and be proud all year.”

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Planned partnerships

Plans to collaborate with area organizations are underway, as well.

The Phoenix, BSU’s LGBTQ+ student organization, regularly holds meetings and events including silent auctions, drag shows and coming-out panels.

BSU and NTC’s Lutheran Campus Ministry, under the leadership of Pastor Emily Papke-Larson, has also stated its commitment to supporting LGBTQ+ students and students of color.

Northwoods Queer Outreach was launched in 2019 and aims for representation and support of queer and transgender populations throughout Bemidji. They also provide resources regarding holidays, transitioning and mental health among other topics.

“We are a more rural community, so there’s not necessarily as much of a history or support for the LGBTQ community as there may be in larger metro areas. My hope is to grow the campaign to be a consistent program we offer as our community grows,” Taylor said. “Part of that is continuing to partner with community groups in hopes of creating a safer community for our LGBTQ residents.”

All partners and event attendees will be able to use the hashtag “#ProudAllYear” to document all events of the campaign.

“We want to encourage other campus entities and whoever participates or collaborates with us to use the hashtag so we can be consistent in our promotion,” Hong added.

Structural shifts

Taylor and Hong detailed other training and resources that will be available for several purposes, one being inclusive language and correct pronoun usage.

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Taylor referenced deadnaming, or the act of referring to a transgender person with a name they no longer use upon transitioning.

“That will be additional programmed training and information so that folks aren’t getting deadnamed,” Taylor said.

Taylor hopes the campaign can implement permanent changes in both college systems and Bemidji as a whole as opposed to having a one-off celebratory event.

“The dream would be to seamlessly have spaces and resources available for not only students and employees, but the larger community,” Taylor said. “And that it will just become standard to have things available that are largely available in other places in terms of proper health care, hormone access, mental health support and job-seeking services. It’s a long-term effort that will start with what we’re doing this year and will continue to grow from there.”

Taylor and Hong credited the BSU and NTC Strategic Plan for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, a five-year initiative from 2019 to 2024, for inspiring Proud All Year.

“This all fits well and easily into the work that we should be doing as institutions,” Taylor said. “This is part of the values of BSU and NTC. It’s just that we’re kind of the vehicles right now to keep that work moving in a positive direction.”

Daltyn Lofstrom is a reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer focusing on education and community stories.
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