7th annual Lavendar Graduation unites and celebrates diversity

BY: ASHLEY AUSTRIE-BROWN

The 7th Annual Lavender Graduation (LG) Celebration took place on Monday, May 20, 2013 from 6 to 8 p.m. in Ballroom A of CSULB’sUniversity Student Union. Cultural graduations are an addition to the regularCSULB graduation ceremonies. We celebrate the diversity of our students and commemorate them on a successful, school career.

LG is a unique commencement celebration for the LGBTQIA-identified graduates of all races and ethnicities, while creating a wonderful opportunity for people within and outside of the LGBTQIAcommunity to share a moment of accomplishment and express their individuality with their family and friends.

The acronym LGBTQIA represents a broad array of various identities including (and not limited to):◦L-Lesbian ◦G-Gay◦ B-Bisexual ◦T-Transsexual/Transgender ◦Q-Queer/Questioning ◦I-Intersex ◦A-Ally. An ally is a person who sympathizes with, fights for, believes in and unconditionally accepts LGBTIQI-identifiedpersons.

The theme of the Lavender Graduation Celebration was called Colors of the Rainbow.

Students who attended the Lavender Graduation Celebration felt that it was a chance for theLBGTQIA community to unite and recognize their accomplishments within and outside of school.

Kari Lee Suarez graduated with a degree in psychology and plans on working full time for two years, then hopefully get her masters at the University of San Diego.

“It’s great that CSULB is having this type of cultural graduation celebration, considering what is going on in the supreme court and the fight for marriage equality,” Suarez said. “I have a close friend who is lesbian and the Lavender Graduation was a more intimate way for us to celebrate.”

Suarez aspires to be a professor of non-verbal communication.

James Suazo, who graduated with a degree in English education, works as a peer advisor in the Education Opportunity Program at CSULB and will be attending graduate school sometime in the future.

"This type of graduation is wonderful and it helps celebrate the diversity we have here on campus. The fact that we even have a LBGTQIA-orientedceremony to recognize the individuals that are out here on campus and are positive role models for the LGBTQIA community as students getting their higher education is amazing," Suazo said. “I wish all college campuses had an event like this.”

Suazo has many friends who are graduating in the Lavender Celebration and he thought it was a very fitting ceremony for the work that he has done with the LBGTQIA community to participate in this celebration. Suazo aspires to work with a nonprofit organization that helps the Latino andLBGTQIA community.

Kelsey Gene Brown, graduated with a degree in women’s, gender, and sexuality studies, will intern at Choices Campus Leadership Program and will hopefully attend graduate school at UCLA to get her master's in Library Science.

“The Lavender Celebration was kind of a way for me to have a small ceremony where me and friends could support each other and get closure with the school,” Brown said. “I got a lot of slack from my parents because they thought the celebration was defining separate, but equal. However, I didn’t see it like that because it’s just an additional ceremony to the main graduation.”

Brown aspires to run a state library or a public library at UCLA.

Russell Daniel, the alumni speaker, graduated last year with a degree in liberal studies, works at Health Net and will be starting his master's in social work this fall at Cal State Fullerton.

“The Lavender Graduation Celebration is very important because the cultures and groups that have their own separate cultural ceremonies are people who have been oppressed in the world especially in the educational setting, but it’s also to show everyone how far the LBGTQIAcommunity has come,” Daniel said.

Roberto Cruz graduated with a degree in business and information systems and teaches at Los Angeles Harbor College.

“I transferred from Harbor College [where] there are no programs, organizations or graduation celebrations for the LBGTQIA community, so this was a very gratifying moment for me because our school allows us to have this type of event on campus,” Cruz said. “The Lavender Graduation is a place to feel accepted and receive recognition of accomplishments. It’s for those who may or may not have the support of their family.”

Cruz will be working at Verizon headquarters in Irvine this summer and Verizon will be paying for his master’s degree.

The Lavender Graduation Celebration was a great success and will continue to help shape diversity at CSULB.