When coming to Charlotte, North Carolina for my alternative spring break dedicated to the issue LGBTQ+, I was afraid Charlotte would not hold inclusivity, peace, or support for my community. Coming from a small college town like Mount Pleasant, I crave inclusive spaces, and often times doubt that places outside Michigan, are doing better.
Eleven students, myself included, signed up back in October to spend our spring break doing service work for a multitude of issues. Issues included civil rights, persons with disabilities, hunger & homelessness, and our issue LGBTQ+.
We drove twelve hours, from Mount Pleasant, MI. to Charlotte, NC. to work with Campus Pride. We all come from different walks of life, but one thing is certain, we all care about the LGBTQ+ community, and the issues this community faces.
I realized, as soon as we arrived and sat down to learn about places like Campus Pride, Time Out Youth, and more, this city holds more acceptance than any city I have ever been to.
Our volunteer work with Campus Pride is something I will hold close to my heart for years to come. Our time was put into calling college campuses to encourage them to complete the Campus Pride Index & Sports Index for LGBTQ+ inclusion. The idea that LGBTQ+ people can look up a school they are interested in, and see if that university can fulfill their needs/wants based on being queer, is pretty amazing.
We made our way over to Noda, and visited Time Out Youth. I was overcome with emotion seeing all of the queer youth, expressing themselves, and getting to be open in a safe space. The art work that youth had painted in remembrance for the summer 2016 Orlando shooting, next to the pride flags made me feel safe and at home. I picked up some materials to bring back to our LGBTQ center at CMU.
I then started to wonder why queer youth centers are not more available, and what I can do to help queer youth in Michigan over the next three years that I will be there.
The city of Charlotte itself had me in awe. The architecture, vibrant feel, fast paced environment, made me crave big city life. Being in this city made me realize how much bigger the world is outside of Mount Pleasant, Michigan. Attending a University of about 22,000 people, you get to experience diversity, but not the way you can in a big city.
The diversity continued with a drag show, listening to older generation LGBTQ+ people talk about their life experiences, queer history, and speakers who emphasized how our community needs to come together, and start fighting for liberation for identities more than just gay men, and lesbian women.
Sorting through hot wheels cars was an interesting experience. I never would have thought an extensive hot wheel collection could bring so much money to an organization like Campus Pride. Service work is not always glamorous, but the intent is what makes the experience worth it.
Our last remaining hours in Charlotte are emotional. I am afraid going back to a not so progressive city, and state will stop the momentum being here has given me. Going back to being an intern in the Office of LGBTQ Services at CMU I have a lot of ideas on how to improve student life through inclusion.
We have a long way to go with our administration at CMU, but Campus Pride, and the surrounding community here gives me hope that things can improve, as long as our student body is willing to fight for LGBTQ students rights.