PRIDE hosting weekend festival

USF’s PRIDE Alliance will host the fourth annual conference of the Florida Collegiate Pride Coalition (FCPC) at the Phyllis P. Marshall Center this weekend, with three days of festivities and workshops that aim to connect and unify PRIDE Alliances statewide.

FCPC’s decision to give USF the opportunity to host the conference, which organizers expect more than 300 people to attend, highlights the diversity in the USF community, PRIDE leaders said.

“For the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered) community at USF, it sends a great message that USF is becoming a gay-friendly campus,” said Tamara Wasserman, president of PRIDE (People Respecting Individual Diversity and Equality). “And not only that, but a powerful force in the LGBT community.”

All USF students can attend the conference, and organizers expect a broad mixture of people to attend.

“Diversity … is the theme of our conference. (We are focusing on) community and how to unify our diverse community,” said Kris Hechevarria, head of public relations for PRIDE.

The conference’s workshops will be divided into three tracks – leadership, activism and diversity – and participants can attend a series of classes focused on an area of their choice. The workshops will focus on basic education as well as activism. A mixture of USF faculty and other instructors will teach the workshops, such as women’s studies professor Sara Crawley, FCPC founder Joseph Saunders and representatives from Gender Pact.

In addition to the workshops, networking is key, Hechevarria said.

“It’s a great way to meet people who share your same passion for the cause,” he said. FCPC affords PRIDE Alliances statewide the opportunity to network and share ideas, giving them the power to make a difference from the Gulf to the Atlantic Coast. It is the reason FCPC was created.

FCPC was started by a University of Central Florida student four years ago in an attempt to better connect the different PRIDE Alliances statewide. Now, they come together to network and educate, but their biggest product is cohesion among schools. This conference will impact USF and the Tampa Bay area positively, Wasserman said.

“USF campus is becoming a stronghold for gay rights,” she said. PRIDE initiatives have already been recognized by members from the Tampa Bay community. St. Pete Pride and have both donated money for this event.

The conference proves that the strength of the LGBT community has grown, Hechevarria said.

“(This conference proves that) we are a force to be reckoned with,” he said. “If there is a problem, we can get together and we can fight.”