Congratulations to the recipients of the Campus Pride 2013 National Voice and Action Student Leader Award–Katherine Barnes (St. Olaf College) and Mark Travis Rivera (William Paterson University)–and the inaugural recipient of the 2013 National Voice and Action Advisory Award, Brandon Haddock (Kansas State University)!
Katherine “Katie” Barnes
St. Olaf College
Class of 2013
Program of Study: Triple Major in History, Russian Area Studies, and American Studies
Intended Profession: LGBTQ Services Professional/Student Affairs
“I am so deeply honored to receive this award. To be placed in the same category as past winners is a truly humbling experience. Though this was awarded to me as an individual, it belongs to the community at St. Olaf. The work I have done does not belong to me alone, rather it is the collection of our motivation and spirits that come together to create change within our campus community. Being a part of the work we have done at St. Olaf over the past three years has been the highlight of my college experience, and to share in this award is moving beyond what I can express through words.” ~ Katie Barnes
Katie is extremely active in creating change in Minnesota when it comes to LGBT rights and issues! She organized St. Olaf College’ efforts in the battle to defeat a ballot initiative to ban same-sex marriage in her state. On election day, she led over 50 volunteers to staff 225 shifts! Her dedicated paid off, and Minnesota defeated the measure hands down. We at Campus Pride know that Katie’s hard work helped mobilize the state stand up against discrimination and say Minnesota values all families.
Katie’s commitment to the cause at hand is evident from what she wrote in her cover letter: “I have lead throughout my college career with a sense of purpose and profound commitment to others. I have had the opportunity to stand at the steps of the Minnesota State Capitol and let my voice be heard in celebration of the action we took to defeat the proposed marriage amendment in Minnesota. I communicate the needs of the LGBTQA community at St. Olaf to the administration. Above all else I love and serve my community, lifting up their voices and facilitating their efforts to create change. I have been blessed in my life to have the courage, ability, and support to stand for the things in which I believe, and I strive to help others find it within themselves. I lead with conviction and love, never wavering in my commitment to the community.”
Katie’s commitment is one of the reasons Campus Pride is so honored to be able to present the Voice & Action Award to her! In addition to her commitment, Katie understands the challenges facing the LGBTQ community and explained them eloquently in her application:
“I spent the better part of a year fighting a battle for which I did not ask. I called voters all across the state of Minnesota, canvassed campuses, and recruited volunteers. I fought hard to ensure that discrimination would not be codified into the Minnesota state constitution. Along with thousands of Minnesotans, I took a stand and I voted no. As a state, we made history on November 6, being the first state to ever defeat such a ballot measure. We won the battle. Across the country, we won four battles. Many pundits pointed to that as a sign that we were winning the war, but I remain unconvinced.
“If the movement’s purpose is to make marriage accessible for everyone, then yes, we are probably going to win. Marriage, however, will not bring about greater justice, fairness, and equality for all persons, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or gender expression. Gay rights does not equal queer liberation, and we should resist the ghettoization of pertinent issues to other letters of the acronym. Rea Carey, the executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force spoke about the dangers of being a single-issue movement at last year’s Creating Change Conference. It was during this time that marriage completely dominated the media (as it often does) in regards to the gay rights movement. Maryland and Washington State had passed laws legalizing marriage equality, and most were following the Proposition 8 court case religiously.
“In Minnesota, however, the LGBTQA population was up in arms over the arrest of CeCe McDonald, a transwoman of color who was viciously attacked in Minneapolis. In the process of defending herself, one of the assailants was killed, and despite evidence that CeCe acted in self-defense, she was forced to take a plea bargain and is currently serving her sentence in a male prison. The press was not interested in this story, however, because they primarily covered the amendment conversation.
“This points to a general disconnect in the movement, where we have struggled to stay united. In order to effectively combat the core of our oppression, which is rooted in homophobia and sexism, we must challenge those systems at their very foundation. The role LGBT persons and allies can meet this challenge is building coalitions across demographics. To be successful as a movement, we must embrace intersectionality as a core concept and work with communities of color, feminists, faith based organizations, and organizations that combat classism. We are seeing these conversations take place at a high level, such as what occurs at Creating Change, but those ideas and thoughts do not transfer to the media, thus continuing to push the movement in one direction instead of the multitude of directions in which we have begun to move. We can create comprehensive change, but first we have to truly broaden the meaning of change to extend beyond marriage equality, and we have to do it together, as ALL of the letters, and not just the first two.”
We praise Katie’s conscientiousness and agree that we as leaders we need to critically examine the direction we are heading, insuring we are inc luding all people as we move forward in our social justice work.
As part of the application we ask the applicants to have letters of recommendation written on their behalf. One of these letters was to be from a fellow student leader. Michelle Wheeler of St. Olaf College wrote; “Katie is a natural leader whose ability to unify disparate groups sets her apart from other organizers in the LGBTQ community. From her exquisite ability to foster relationships to her knack for public speaking, Katie is a leader in every sense. When an occasion arises for the community to unite, you can count on Katie to be the one holding the megaphone or standing in the middle of the crowd. When Katie speaks, people listen.”
In addition to the student leader letter, we asked for a letter of reference from faculty and staff. Jen Parshley, Chair and Lead Trainer for Minnesota GLBTA Campus Alliance, wrote; “Because of Katherine’s ability to meet people where they are at in their ally journeys and to make connections about why this conference is important for all of the St. Olaf community, her fundraising efforts raised over $15,000. Perhaps the most significant expense that the money helped to offset was allowing us to keep the conference free for all students, an uncommon reality for many conferences. Because of the cohesive relationships that Katherine has personally built over time with St. Olaf staff and faculty, the MOCC committee was able to easily book spaces, obtain necessary permissions for advertising on campus and for creating gender neutral restrooms the days of the conference, and to receive large in-kind donations. People approached her, wanting to know how they could help make this conference a success. Every time I visited St. Olaf to meet about MOCC, there were always people saying hello to her in the hallways. Because of Katherine’s perseverance to make MOCC 2012 an outstanding experience for all students, she secured an amazing lineup of keynotes and entertainment—both on the local and national level.”
The Voice & Action Selection Committee also had words of praise for Katie: “Makes an impact wherever she goes,” “Committed long-time leader organizing extensive events with deep understanding of intersectionalities,” and “Will be a force to be reckoned with!”
Campus Pride is proud to be able to recognize Katherine Barnes as one of the 2013 Campus Pride National Voice & Action Leadership Award recipients.
Mark Travis Rivera
William Patterson University
Class of 2015
Program of Study: Dual major in Print Journalism and Women’s & Gender Studies
Intended Profession: Writer/Choreographer/Motivational Speaker
“When I got the call that I had been selected from the Top 10 Leaders in Action to receive the Voice and Action Award, I was shocked and humbled. The news served as a reminder that I am meant to continue to do the work I do and it is an honor to be among LGBT college students who have been honored in the past. I was personally inspired to apply for the award after meeting past recipient JeShawna Wholley, a fierce activist whom I’ve come to admire and look up to as a leader. So thanks Campus Pride for the honor and I will continue to lead with pride, always.” ~ Mark Travis Rivera
Campus Pride is excited to honor Mark Travis Rivera with the 2013 Voice and Action Student Leadership Award! Mark’s advocacy and education work includes LGBT campus organizing, HIV/AIDS education efforts, and an innovative project that challenges audience’s assumptions about disability through dance. Mark has established himself as an effective leader in the LGBT community, and we look forward to seeing where his work leads him in the future.
Mark writes in his cover letter; “Harvey Milk once said, ‘You gotta give them hope,’ and I am a firm believer that by giving another hope for a better tomorrow, you are beginning to form the opportunity for a better tomorrow. As a proud gay Latino, I have used my coming out process to shed light on others like me and use my voice to spark others to take action. I never imagined my life turning out this way at fourteen when I came ‘out of the closet’; I did not aspire to be an activist, to get involved in the community, or to begin work that aims to improve the lives of others and reduce the spread of HIV. When I came out I just wanted to be able to live without feeling as if I were living a lie or ashamed of who I was.”
With the Voice and Action Student Leadership Award, we honor Mark’s growth as a leader and his desire to make it easier for others to come out in the future. In addition to these characteristics, he understands the challenges facing our movement and addresses them eloquently in his application:
“The greatest challenge the LGBT community faces is that as a whole, we have lost track of the reason that sparked our movement in the first place: to seek social justice. It seems like our movement is being driven politically and financially, placing more emphasis on ‘the mainstream gay’ and ‘same-sex marriage.’ I know I have written something that may spark anger or disagreement but I hope to further explain the points I’ve mentioned thus far. You see—the greatest challenge we face is the division that is within our movement and the separatist attitudes we have adopted along the way.
“When I think of what ignited the Stonewall riots, I think of the birth of the gay rights movement and why it was deemed important and essential for the progress of a community. It was started out of the desire for social justice; to end the discrimination people were dealing with in regards to their community’s laws, and the stigmas that surrounded the LGBT community. It was a movement that intended on giving the voiceless a voice, to give them hope, and to remind them that there was nothing wrong with whom they are. Mesmerized by such activists like Harvey Milk and civil rights pioneer Martin Luther King, Jr., I constantly attempt to mimic their leaderships by making the movement about us all, and not just those who would benefit from marriage. While I know our movement isn’t entirely centered on same-sex marriage, a huge portion of our energy, monies, and attention is focused singularly on that particular area. Which is only isolating people in our community and making the gap between the L, G, B, and T bigger.
“In order to close the gap, we must remind ourselves that marriage is not something that everyone wants to partake in and while the federal and financial benefits of marriage are great, the age bracket within the LGBT community that are most at risk for violence, HIV/STDs, homelessness, and suicide are the young LGBT population, many of whom are probably never envisioning a wedding in their future. If we want to close the gap we must return to our roots, to the riots that sparked it all and the cause when lead to the effect. We must continue to fight anti-gay laws in regards to discrimination, continue to combat the stigma surrounding HIV and increase risk reduction efforts, and help the youth of our community recognize that it gets better. By investing in more centers for LGBT youth and educational reform that would help with school bullying and lack of sensitivity from educators, we’d be helping the future of our community shine brighter. Place more emphasis on the most at-risk and not just the middle/upper class gay couples who rightfully deserve marriage equality. Remind the community that our struggle for equality remains universal and that together we can bring in a new wave of LGBT activism that this generation has never seen.”
We praise Mark’s conscientiousness and agree that we as leaders we need to critically examine the direction we are heading, insuring we are including all people as we move forward. Following this logic, Mark’s advocacy extends beyond the LGBT community and into his own dance company, called marked dance project. The project’s mission statement reads, “The mission of marked dance project is to expose the art of dance to all individuals. This contemporary-modern based mixed abilities dance company includes dancers with and without disabilities. Through community outreach, performances, classes and workshops we mold and enhance artistic abilities, while fostering compassion and understanding among the community.” Mark’s innovative efforts to create a welcoming place for everyone and challenge ableism in his audiences is admirable—just one more reason he was selected as one of the 2013 Voice and Action Student Leadership Award recipients!
As part of the application, applicants also submit letters of recommendation written on their behalf. One of these letters was to be from a fellow student leader. Kayla Stepinac, a sophomore at William Paterson University, wrote, “People like Mark have empowered me to bring out my own inner leader. The one thing I have always admired about Mark is his work ethic. Mark will see all that needs to be done and execute it head on and get it accomplished. His dedication to his activism, school, and others is what makes him such an amazing individual. We can always count on Mark to be there, out loud, and proud about who he is and what he does for others in the community.”
In addition to the student leader letter we asked for two letters to come from faculty and staff. Helena Sir of The Women’s Center at William Paterson University wrote, “When I first met Mark I was enchanted by his effervescent personality; his enthusiasm and passion for life and causes that are dear to him are visible whenever he walks into a room….These experiences have increased Mark’s recognition as an LGBT leader on campus, and as someone to look up to as an example of what it means to live your life being true to yourself.”
The Voice & Action Selection Committee also had words of praise for Mark: “What an inspiration,” “Courageous, constantly challenges the direction and priorities of the movement, stands up in face of criticism or backlash,” and “Strong goals and intentions.”
Campus Pride is proud to be able to recognize Mark Travis Rivera as one of the 2013 Campus Pride National Voice & Action Leadership Award recipients!
Kansas State University
Coordinator, LGBT Resource Center
“I am very honored and humbled to be nominated and selected for this award. The students of our LGBT organizations here at K-State are quite amazing and I am so thankful and honored to work with them. We have all worked to the best of our abilities to make our campus a safe and affirming place and I feel that this award represents not only myself but our community as well.” ~ Brandon Haddock
Brandon has been the Coordinator of the LGBT Resource Center at Kansas State University since 2010, starting off as a graduate assistant and then being hired as a full-time professional staff member. Simone Dorsey, President of Kansas State University LGBT and Allies writes, “Brandon’s heart is always in the right place and his nomination for this award is well fitting. His relentless motivation to continually encourage and assist any and all students that he encounters is heartwarming and necessary in the environment in Kansas. It is difficult to find an accepting leader on K-State’s campus, so to some, Brandon is a gift. I feel he would make the perfect recipient for this award.”
We at Campus Pride could not agree with you more that Brandon is a gift to the students and other members of K-State community!
As part of the application we asked each nominee to develop a platform they would Champion over the next year. Below is Brandon’s platform:
“One of the most important topics to me as an advisor, educator, and human being is knowledge of my own history. I have always strived to learn and understand more about the past whether it be familial, cultural, political, etc. This yearning for knowledge has helped to shape my goals for myself and as an educator. I truly believe that an individual, culture, or social movement cannot be truly successful without basic knowledge of history. In respect to Campus Pride’s vision, mission, and values it is only natural that as individuals, a culture, and a social movement that we know our own queer history and that we have a responsibility to our youth and our communities to educate them on this history.
“For our LGBT youth it is integral that they know where we; our queer culture, our LGBT family, and our allies; have come from. In my experience as an educator and an advisor I have been appalled at the general lack of knowledge of our students about LGBT history and issues. As George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. The hustlers, drag queens, and gay men and women in the Stonewall Inn on that night in June over forty years ago would not want our history to repeat itself. Knowledge of our own history empowers us individuals and as a culture. Knowing our history enables us to strive for greater goals; it brings us together as a family, a community, a cultural movement. And perhaps most of all, knowledge of our LGBT history does not allow others to demean or detract from that history.
“In the Western world we have come from a time when we were shunned, persecuted, imprisoned, and even murdered because of our sexuality or gender identity. Sadly, there are still places in the world where these things are commonplace and arguably even still occur in the Western world. We must educate our youth and our communities about HIV/AIDS and remind them that it was not all that long ago that our communities were decimated by this disease and continues to this day. It is important for our youth to understand that we were a part of the Nazi purge and genocide and when the concentration camps were liberated, the LGBT prisoners were in many instances forced to remain and carry out their sentences. Our brothers and sisters walked with Martin Luther King Jr. and fought for the civil rights of others as well as our own. We must educate our youth and communities that Matthew Shepard and Brandon Teena did not die in vain and that because of their pain and tragedy the world has changed for the better. But above all, we must let our LGBT youth and communities know that they do have a history to be proud of.
“I want to work with Campus Pride to create a network of scholars to help create change on campuses around the country and globe that develop and implement courses for and about LGBT history, community, politics, etc. There are many ways that courses can be implemented on a campus. I know that with Campus Pride, we can help educators and staff incorporate LGBT themed topics into courses that they already provide but also can develop courses that are specific to the history and issues of our community. By providing workshop materials, course outlines, and even course guidelines I believe that I can help Campus Pride to make our higher education system better and more inclusive. By increasing and improving already available online materials courses on sexuality and gender identity can be improved. Also, by creating a network of scholars and encouraging others to create such courses we are able to help improve the educational experience and acceptance of our LGBT and allied students.
“Three years ago, at K-State, there was not a single LGBT themed course offered. Today we have courses on the coming out experience, intersectionality of race, gender, and sexuality, and are currently working on offering a course devoted to LGBT history in Fall of 2013. In nearly every instance these courses have been enrolled to capacity and have become highly in demand by students in counseling services, education, sociology, and psychology. I know that many colleges and universities do offer specific courses but the numbers can be increased and those courses can be improved by reaching out to the educators and advisors through Campus Pride’s network.
We look forward to work with Brandon over this next year as we support him in championing this platform!