On Tuesday night, the Dr. Jesse R. Peel LGBTQ Center hosted the opening of the True Colors: Honoring Stonewall event in memoriam of those who in part started the LGTBQ civil rights movement.
Senior Associate Director in Intercultural Affairs, Mark Rasdorf, oversees the Dr. Jesse R. Peel LGBTQ Center at East Carolina Universtiy and its operation. He and the School of Art and Design have collaborated for the fourth year running to put together the True Colors photo exhibit. This year’s exhibit honors the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.
Rasdorf said that the event was meant to bring awareness to the history of the ECU LGBTQ commuinity and before the event took place, he hoped that students would be able to gain a better understanding of their community.
“It (True Colors exhibits) helps bring visibility awareness, hopefully understanding, of the experiences of the LGBTQ community at ECU,” Rasdorf said. “And also to represent the full diverstiy of the LGBTQ and allied community. So, I hope folks that take in the exhibit will gain insight and appreciation for the diversity of our community.”
Sexual and gender minorities still face discrimination and bias in the community, and this is a way for those minorities to be able to be seen with a positive representation. The event itself took place during a month that honors the LGBTQ community, the month long photo exhibition is a way to honor those people, according to Rasdorf.
The exhibit itself will be displayed inside the New Student Center on the second floor, and showcases 19 portraits with individual statements from the photographed individuals around the idea of honoring the events of the Stonewall Riots.
“The most important changes happen in those one-to-one encounters where people have the opportunity to talk and learn,” Rasdorf said. “This group of statements are some of the most impactful I have ever seen.”
Senior political science major, Maya Washington, joined the exhibition for her first year, and was eager to use this to acknowledge the people that came before her that helped to pave the way for everyone who comes after.
“As a queer black woman, I have the double jeopardy of being black, a woman, and belonging to the LGBTQ community,” Washington said. “So I’m going to find my power in becoming a human’s rights or civil rights lawyer. So, in my prompt, I talk about that, and I basically said all power to the people.”
Putting herself on display in this manner and being able to see similar people in this exhibition has created a sense of pride within herself, and, according to Washington, is what she hopes people take away from this exhibition.
This exhibition is a way to show that members of the LGBTQ community are people too. The pictures on display are raw, and are the visualization of the vulnerabilities and the traits individual to each person, according to Washington.
“Art is found in everything, and we are walking symbols of art, and we’ve been photographed and we’ve been eternalized in these pictures,” Washington said.
Junior photographer and graphic design major, Imani McCray, is participating in this year’s True Colors event with his own photo gallery inside the Dr. Jesse R. Peel LGBTQ Center.
His own gallery, which will also be up for the month of October, showcases some behind the scenes outtakes from when the 19 portraits were taken, and present candid shots of those people who had participated.
“With the main gallery, there’s a theme, there’s the stories, there’s a lot, but this one, I want people to be able to pause and realize that what they just saw, there’s more depth to it,” McCray said. “These people aren’t just the smiles and the rainbow that you see. There’s a little bit of shyness, a little bit of timidness.”
McCray hopes that, through this event, we as a people do not backtrack towards previous misconceptions or biases that society once clung to then. Especially for people who consider themselves to be allies, McCray wants them to actively be an ally, and to support those minorities wholeheartedly, according to McCray.
“I hoping people pull away how beautiful they really are by just being themselves. I want people to realize it isn’t going out and finding something external that makes you beautiful,” McCray said. “It’s fine tuning and polishing the things that you already have in you and then your passions.”