Xavier University Celebrates First Ever Pride Week with “Gayla”

Participants at Xavier University’s Gayla

The U.S.’ only historically Black Catholic college has celebrated its first Pride Week, which was an effort to show LGBTQ people the campus is “unequivocally their home,” according to one staff member.

Xavier University of Louisiana held Pride Week this month. Sponsored by the Office of Inclusion and Social Justice, the university held events honoring the contributions and histories of LGBTQ persons. It also focused on “mental health, self-care, art, and service, including daily morning group yoga and Xavier’s annual Pride Walk,” according to MyNewOrleans.com.

Kerri Lee Alexander, assistant vice president of student affairs and chief inclusion officer, stated:

“We are thrilled to partner with our friends, colleagues, and supporters to honor individuals that are actively engaged in this transformative work. I look forward to all of the ways we can continue to celebrate the monumental contributions of the LGBTQIA+ community.”

The week’s final celebration was a “Gayla,” a festive campus party which hundreds attended. The theme was “Unveiling the Mask” as a way to show solidarity with all those people who cannot be out and authentic.

Glenn Caston, an inclusion and social justice officer on campus, said the Gayla was “a visible representation of our commitment that regardless of [LGBTQ people’s] identities, our institution is unequivocally their home.”

Patrick High, a Xavier junior, commented about the Gayla to WDSU 6:

“This is one of our biggest steps. For us to have this event, I think speaks volumes for how far we have come from when we opened so many years ago. Here at XU we have such a large queer community. But you really would not know that because we are not put in the limelight. By having this event it shows there’s more to XU than just Catholicism. It shows how inclusive we can be as well.”

Another student, sophomore Deirra Williams, said:

“I feel this is good as a community. As a school, even an HBCU [Historically Black College/University]. We are including those people who honestly get left out a lot.”

Students were honored at the event with scholarships for their efforts in human rights advocacy and promoting the dignity of all persons.

Vice President for Student Affairs Curtis Wright said of the Pride Week celebrations overall:

“Our job as educators is to create spaces to dismantle injustices. At this institution, we do just that. We do it for our students of color and those in LGBTQ [community]. This is what we do.”

This post is part of Bondings 2.0’s “Campus Chronicles” series on Catholic higher education. You can read other stories in this series by clicking here.

Elise Dubravec, New Ways Ministry, October 29, 2021

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