VCU is one of 93 U.S. colleges and universities to hold Lavender Graduation. Since 2012, when the first VCU ceremony was held, more than 200 graduates have been recognized.
The color lavender is significant to LGBTQIA+ history and represents a combination of the pink triangle that gay men were forced to wear in concentration camps and the black triangle designating lesbians as political prisoners in Nazi Germany. The LGBTQIA+ civil rights movement took these symbols of hatred and combined them to make a symbol and color of pride and community.
“Celebrating the accomplishments of LGBTQ+ folks is necessary, otherwise our work and legacy gets erased,” Rebecca Keel, soon to be graduate from the VCU Masters in Social Work program and second time Lavender Graduation participant, said. “If we didn’t spotlight our work, especially here in the south, then it would likely go unrecognized.”
The theme for the 2016 Lavender Graduation, which includes both a ceremony and reception, is Color the World.
“It is about spreading your flavor to the public. Sharing what you have to impart to others about LGBTQIA+ rights and getting them to see the beauty of us,” George Kelly, Assistant Director of Business and Personnel Services for Residential Life and Housing and the chair of Lavender Graduation, said.
This year, cords will be distributed by:
- George Kelly, Assistant Director of Business and Personnel Services for Residential Life and Housing
- Paris Fitzgerald Prince, Special Assistant for LGBTQ Initiatives for the Division of Inclusive Excellence
- Kevin Harris, Interim Associate Vice President for Health Sciences
- Diane Stout-Brown, Senior Director of VCU Alumni
“During my time at VCU, the advising community and open administration have been great resources for overcoming any difficulties I faced,” Fallon Regan, a December graduate of VCU’s Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies program, said.
The ceremony will include Dr. Camilla Buchanan, the mother of Camilla Hill from the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, as the keynote speaker. Surprises are in store for the celebration – “It is something you definitely have to be there to see,” Kelly said.
The ceremony will be held on Friday, April 22, at 5 p.m. in room 303 on the third floor of James Branch Cabell Library. Lavender graduates, family and friends are all invited to attend. To participate, register by April 18 on the Lavender Graduation website. Attendance is free for the graduates and up to three guests. December 2015 and August 2016 graduates and their guests are also invited to attend.
“One of the most important things about Lavender Graduation is that you can invite anyone that you want,” Trevon Straughter, graduating senior and Public Relations major, said. “It’s great because you can invite your partner or someone who has shared the journey along with you. They get to not only be an ally in that space, but also a friend, and they get to see that all of your hard work has paid off.”