CU Pride Fest empowers LGBTQ+ community


James Hoeck

A pride parade festival member hands out leighs to the community during the pride parade on Saturday.

By Lillie Salas, Contributing Writer

Last Saturday, the streets of downtown Urbana were alive with color and music as participants of Champaign-Urbana’s Pride Fest took the streets. Booths representing community organizations and small businesses dotted the sidelines, and every color of the rainbow could be seen with a passing glance.
As a part of the 2022 CU Pride Fest, the Pride Fair offered welcoming and safe opportunities for community members to flaunt their pride alongside live music, vendors, food trucks and arts and craft activities.
“When I come here, I just look forward to celebrating with everyone else, and it just makes me so happy to see young people who are so comfortable with being queer because we’re able to create a better life for them,” said local resident Leyla Cohen. “We have more resources available. I look forward to just seeing everybody here.”
The event was open to the public with free admission. Community organizations displayed their support for the LGBTQ+ community in attendance, including Elliott Counseling Group and the Rape Advocacy, Counseling and Education Services, known as R.A.C.E.S.
Brea Wickert, client care specialist at Elliott Counseling Group and medical advocate at R.A.C.E.S, said she believed it’s important to have LGBTQ+ individuals connected to the proper tools in order to help them succeed.
“I’m really looking forward to people getting connected with resources. We’re out here, and I see so many different mental health agencies, medical agencies, so I really think it’s important for us to be connected with the community,” Wickert said. “I’m really looking forward to seeing people get the help they need.”
The fair also served as an hub for local artists and businesses. On the vendor side, products of all types were for sale, including handmade earrings, bags, hats and clothing.
“I think my favorite part would be the people who make their own jewelry and sell them. It’s like art,” said Ren Bi, junior in LAS. “It’s a creation, and it’s made to be enjoyed by the public. That’s why I love pride.”
Aviv Sagiv, freshman in DGS, said he felt a strong sense of community during C-U’s pride celebrations.
“I come to this parade every single year. It’s always fun to see people you know around here. It’s always a good vibe,” Sagiv said. “The community always shows up and makes it special. I love seeing all the cute outfits and all the people covered in flags.”
Events for the 2022 CU Pride Fest started on Sept. 24 and ended Sunday. However, according to local resident Michael Grant, celebrating pride goes beyond the one week of events. Grant stressed the importance of practicing acceptance every day in order to aid the LGBTQ+ community.
“Work on accepting pronouns, even neopronouns. They are important. Work on accepting ‘weird’ sexualities. I have a weird sexuality and it was caused by trauma, so sexualities can be caused by trauma,” Grant said. “Also, know that being gay is not a choice. Work on accepting people.”
Not only are pride-related activities giving queer community members a safe space, but they’re also drawing community members towards participating in activism and bringing awareness to issues that the LGBTQ+ community faces. Bi highlighted the importance of individual action.
“On an individual level, we have to reflect what we have and what we don’t have. Basically, what are our privileges, and how can we use our individual efforts and privileges to benefit people around us,” Bi said. “I think individuals have power to change the community. It’s not our responsibility, but it’s our call to make this happen.”

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