By CHELSEA FULLER
On Friday April 17, the student-led group People for the Rights of Individuals of Sexual Minorities hosted their annual event, Day of Silence.
PRISM began hosting the event in the early 2000s, which was inspired by the first Day of Silence created by University of Virginia students in 1996. PRISM invited students and faculty alike to recognize the daily issues faced by both campus and global Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender-Questioning communities.
“We, as PRISM, traditionally participate under the same creed as the national event…This year we chose to expand it to include more issues that the LGBT community faces like youth homelessness, health care issues, employment discrimination, and violence toward transgender persons,” said junior PRISM Chair Alexander Taggert.
Taggert explained that in previous years, UMW’s LGBTQ community hosted an event called “Jeans Day,” where students and faculty would show support and recognition against LGBTQ bullying by wearing jeans.
“It forced people who did [not] want to support to intentionally not wear them,” Taggert said.
Day of Silence has become an annual tradition for most collegiate establishments who maintain some type of LGBTQ student association since its creation in 1996. Though originally started by UVA, the event has gained national support due in part to the increasing recognition and push for the inclusion of sexual minority communities. With the basic intention of combating and acknowledging LGBTQ bullying, Day of Silence has evolved to take on different agendas and meanings for various universities.
The event began at noon and asked UMW participants to join hands on Ball Circle and gather for a moment of silence. At 4 p.m., following the mindful moment of silence, participants were invited to join in a barbecue with performances by Bhangra Beat, Symphinics, UMW Breakers, Bella A Cappella, Voices of Praise and the Performance Arts Club. Food, drinks and games were also provided in celebration of the LGBTQ community.
However, this year’s event was significantly altered from years past, in light of the sudden death of Grace Mann. As an active member of PRISM, Mann embodied the very essence of what PRISM stands for and wishes to accomplish.
“This year, on a day meant to celebrate speaking out, we lost one of our friends who fought the hardest and spoke out the most about injustice,” said senior PRISM Social Chair Cara Wimberley, who spoke on behalf of the group.
“Grace Mann was a beloved member of our community who was passionate about what she believed in and would light up the room whenever she was there. The loss of Grace is exactly why events such as Day of Silence are so important,” said Wimberley. “Violence is one of the issues that we cannot ignore any longer, and Grace would never want us to stop fighting for equality.”
Between the Day of Silence gathering and the ensuing barbecue, PRISM estimates that more than 150 UMW community members came out to show support and participate.
“Our goal was to bring awareness to the issues [PRISM is] fighting for and bring our community together in a commitment for equality and an investment in inclusive community values,” Taggert said.