Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Earthfoods Café and Stonewall Center host LGBTQ open mic night

By Sarah Gamard

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On a blisteringly cold night, it was the warmth and comfort inside Earthfoods Café at the University of Massachusetts which lit up the night.

The popular campus eatery hosted a LGBTQ open mic night last Thursday in conjunction with the Stonewall Center in an effort to connect those of all orientations and self-identities and to offer a place to meet and interact with new people.

For freshman Josie Pinto, sophomore Jayanne Glynn and the outside event coordinators for UMass’ Stonewall Center, the efforts began before the doors opened. The event was held after regular café hours, which meant pulling chairs down off tables, setting up the room and hoping for a solid turnout despite the weather.

They got their wish.

Glynn shared a beautiful spoken word poem about growing into one’s own identity at the event to a host of audience members. The hosts aimed to provide an environment where, whether or not you are currently in or seeking to be a part of the LGBTQ community, you could feel comfortable.

According to Pinto and Glynn, this was the first time the Stonewall Center was holding an open mic night at Earthfoods Café. Usually, these once-a-month shows are held at The Works Bakery Café, a lunch and breakfast restaurant in Amherst Center. Turnouts there included spoken word and musical performances, including UMass a cappella groups like Sharp Attitude.

Glynn mentioned that turnouts were usually very good and sometimes they would have to cap the number of performers when passing around the sign-up sheets because so many volunteered.

Events like the open mic and the myriad of others that exist on campus are just part of the Stonewall Center’s support of UMass students.

“Some people come when they’re coming out of the closet,” Glynn said. “Some people are already out of the closet and others come to do research for a class.”

There is, in fact, a DVD, video and book library located in the Stonewall Center for students to access. The center also holds LGBTQ ally training sessions for those who want to help make a difference but do not necessarily know how.

Pinto reflected on her experiences working at the center by saying, “We’re making a change one person at a time.”

“Think of it this way,” Glynn said. “We are 20 minutes away from the lesbian capital of the world,” in reference to Northampton. However, Pinto said, “There are also a lot of problems.” That is where the Stonewall Center’s efforts come in.

The center serves as the LGBTQ education resource center on campus The organization was one of the first in the nation of its kind, established in 1985 as an administrative office of Student Affairs to provide support for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender members of the Five College Area. Now, it serves as a nurturing and versatile haven for the growing, but still struggling LGBTQ community and those seeking to become allies to the community.

The next spoken word night will be held on March 6 at Earthfoods Café in the Student Union from 7-9 p.m. Other Stonewall Center events can be found on its website, www.umass.edu/stonewall.

Sarah Gamard can be reached at [email protected]

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