Pride Parade appeals for change in Mankato community

Jenna Peterson ® News Editor |
Photos by Mansoor Ahmad ® Photo Editor |

After a gloomy week, the sky cleared up and the sun came out just in time for Mankato’s Pride Parade Saturday.

Despite the challenging times with COVID-19 and with such a large turnout, the parade participants took caution with social distancing and wearing a mask to show their pride.

This year’s idea behind the parade was “change” — what Mankato can do, what MSU can do, and what allies can do to implement change. 

“Stand next to us when we are confronted by others instead of watching us turn into hashtags,” said Minnesota State University student and parade speaker Drake Burke.

Chris Russert, president of MSU’s College Democrats, said he was in attendance to support fellow member and parade speaker Margarita Ruiz.

He talked not only about what the campus already offers, but what other steps can be taken to encourage a better environment for the LGBTQ+ community. 

But change doesn’t have to stop at the campus borders. Russert said there also needs to be change and acceptance within the city of Mankato.

“It doesn’t stop at the march today, just like it didn’t stop at Stonewall,” Russert said, referring to the riots that erupted in New York City after a police raid on a gay nightclub.

John McCauley came to the march to show pride, not only within oneself but also with everyone else attending. As an MSU sophomore, McCauley said he has experienced what it’s like to be part of the LGBTQ+ community on campus and gave some insight on changes that should take place. 

McCauley stated how important it is for Mankato to become more open and create an environment where people can be open and supported.

“It would be nice to get groups who specifically help with LGBTQ+ youth in schools,” McCauley said. “If we could get surrounding schools to do the same, that would be great.” 

Another point brought up was the petition to ban conversion therapy in Mankato. The policy was first brought up in April by a group of MSU students who want to protect people from this form of therapy. 

Conversion therapy is the controversial practice of trying to change an individual’s sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual.

“Banning conversion therapy in Mankato is a step a lot of us want to see taken,” McCauley said.

In her speech, Ruiz assailed conversion therapy and said Mankato needs to come together to ban it. She also discussed the numerous injustices that have taken place and how these numbers need to decrease.

“We will not sit idly by while our community ignores tragedy after tragedy. Not one more death, not one more injustice.”

Edward Ávila, an associate professor in MSU’s Department of English, offered a suggestion for MSU based on what he does in his own classroom.

He said he makes sure to create a safe space for his students and ensure they are comfortable in order to learn in a healthy way. Avila said that, because he teaches primarily migrant and immigrant literatures, he’s able to intertwine these conversations with numerous other topics, such as LGBTQ+. 

“It’s up to us to create a strong voice against oppression, domination, and systemic racism,” Avila said.

Some changes he stated that need to take place include greater funding in schools, more policy changes and support for MSU students, staff, and workers. 

In order for a school to become more diverse, Avila said, it needs to hire more people of color and transgender people as faculty members. 

“In order to bring real change, like the campus slogan talks about big ideas in the real world, we need a more diverse staff,” he said. “This also helps students recognize that they are represented in the greater academic community.”

Kenneth Reid, director of African American affairs at MSU, said it’s important to create a safe place for students to be able to grow into who they want to be.

Senior Dolly Baruah, founder of the Remember Me Too organization at MSU, said she attended to represent international students who aren’t always recognized. 

Baruah discussed the importance of remembering international students and how MSU can make positive changes, which can be done by focusing on creating and supplying resources to international students. 

As a last reminder to the audience, Ruiz talked about the history of LGBTQ+ rights and how it hasn’t always been silent. 

“The first pride was a riot,” she said. “It was about pride and to tell everyone they were fed up with the injustices perpetrated by the police.”

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