Although Pride month is in June, The Office of Multicultural Student Affairs (OMSA) celebrates in April as a way to close out the school year. OMSA’s annual Pridechella event celebrated the LGBTQ+ community with music, spoken word and drag performances on Friday on the Russell House Patio.
Drag Queen Ava Drew Braxton kicked off the event by lip syncing and dancing along to popular songs such as 'Buss It’ by Erica Banks and 'WAP' by Cardi B while in her stilettos. Her performance engaged audience members — she danced with other students and even incorporated a nearby light pole into her routine.
“I feel like it added a little bit more spice, and plus it was a lot of newer, trendy songs. I feel like it got the audience engaged,” first-year nursing student Deniah Arthur said about the performance.
Arthur said the Pridechella event shows acknowledgement to the LGBTQ+ community, and that events such as these show that “USC loves you no matter what.” Arthur said that some of her favorite parts about the event were the games and free items available.
First-year public health student Riley O’Neal helped out with one of the Changing Carolina Peer Leaders table at the event and gave out information about mental health in the LGBTQ+ community. She also gave out free Pridechella stickers and buttons with pronouns on them.
“I grew up in a community that wasn't necessarily supportive of my LGBTQ+ peers,” O’Neal said. “Some of my best friends in high school identified as LGBTQ+ and so being able to go on a college campus and show my support and be able to support my fellow peers just means a lot.”
O’Neal said she thinks it’s important to show support for marginalized communities and Pridechella is a great way to do that.
The event included two 20 minute spoken word performances by Mwende "FreeQuency" Katwiwa. FreeQuency read poems from their book 'Becoming//Black' and other poems that highlight the intersectionality of being both Black and queer.
“Pride is a very complicated thing I think for queer people in general, but I think especially for Black queer people,” FreeQuency said.
FreeQuency said that their blackness is a part of their queerness. After their spoken word performance, FreeQuency sold copies of their book “Becoming//Black.”
“I think what’s really great about events such as this is that we can showcase queer identity or LGBTQ+ identity in multiple ways,” Assistant Director for LGBT Education Caroline Wallace said.
Wallace said that spoken word is a powerful way to show artistic expression from LGBTQ+ members.
Wallace works with LGBTQ+ students fulltime in the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs. She said there is sometimes a misconception that there is no pride culture in South Carolina, but she wanted this event to show that LGBTQ+ students on campus have a community.
Third-year geology student Sophie Luna said that although most people are not aware, the queer community on campus is actually pretty big. Luna said this event helps bring the LGBTQ+ community together and and allows them to see other queer students together.
OMSA also hosts other LGBTQ+ events. Events are announced on its Instagram.