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ColorFest creates vibrant space to learn and network

April 24, 2009
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ColorFest, a weekend-long conference for deaf and hard of hearing students in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning (LGBTQ), and straight communities, took place on the Gallaudet campus on April 11 to 13. The first ColorFest took place last year in 2008 at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), and Gallaudet’s Rainbow Society, in conjunction with the Rainbow Alliance for the Deaf, took on organizing responsibilities for 2009.

The promise of a wide range of workshops and performances and the chance to forge new connections drew 130 participants, said conference co-chair Stephanie Johnson. She was pleased at the turnout, which almost doubled the number from the first ColorFest and included students from Gallaudet, RIT, California State University, Northridge, and several other schools. Not only were the numbers impressive, but the organizers received glowing feedback on the event.

“We never thought that it would be a life changing experience for so many people,” said Johnson. “Many of our registrants left ColorFest with greater pride, dignity, self assurance, and confidence as deaf, hard of hearing, and LGBTQ or straight individuals.”

The highlights of the event included a kickoff night at Town Danceboutique on U Street, the LGBTQ Dialogue workshop, and a history of the LGBTQ community given by Drago Renteria. The most well-attended and talked about event of the weekend was the GlamoR’ous show on Saturday night. The program featured a series of talented performers in skits and drag shows. “It was an incredible night as straight, LGBTQ, deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing performers and spectators came together and respected each other,” Johnson said.

Along with Johnson, the organizers included co-chair Joseph Lopez, Rainbow Society president Masa Nakama, Vice President Vanessa Arp, and several committee members. Also playing key roles in the event were the Phi Kappa Zeta, Delta Epsilon, and Delta Zeta sororities, and the Kappa Gamma, Kappa Sigma, and Alpha Sigma Pi fraternities; the Asian Pacific Association and Latino Student Union; Soul Shakin Images, The Tower Clock, The Buff and Blue, the Graduate Student Association, and an anonymous undergraduate student donor.

Johnson extends special thanks to volunteer and interpreter Jill Owens, Rainbow Society’s staff advisor Uriel Torres, faculty members Sandy McClennon and Ann Powell, Clerc Center staff member Jennifer Furlano, student Zakiya Thorne, and the group leaders for the LGBTQ dialogue workshops.

The next ColorFest is slated to take place next year at RIT.

24 April 2009

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