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    Raising Awareness: Gay activist pleads for unity

    Mandy Carter, a lesbian activist, spoke on the UA Mall Friday evening. Carter was a guest speaker during the Awareness Concert, which was the concluding event of Awareness Week.
    Mandy Carter, a lesbian activist, spoke on the UA Mall Friday evening. Carter was a guest speaker during the Awareness Concert, which was the concluding event of Awareness Week.

    Activist Mandy Carter urged ethnic and sexual minorities to find common ground and unify efforts to raise awareness of their communities and struggles Friday night on the UA Mall.

    “”It’s not a coincidence that the same people pushing anti-gay marriage are the same exact people promoting English-only laws, trying to turn the clock back on women’s rights and are supporting the Minutemen and the militarization of the border,”” Carter said.

    Carter has more than 30 years’ worth of grassroots organizing experience and focuses on dealing with issues of race, class, culture, gender and sexual identity.

    Carter spoke at the Awareness Concert, which was the final event of Awareness Week, hosted by the Associated Students of the University of Arizona Pride Alliance and co-sponsored by the Asian Pacific American Student Affairs and Chicano/Hispano Student Affairs.

    “”When we do our organizing work, culture is really pivotal,”” Carter said. “”We started and ended every meeting in the civil rights movement with a song.””

    The concert featured guitar performances by Natalie Pohanic, a cello performance junior, Tommy Cormier, an undeclared freshman, and Zotero Amavizca, a Mexican-American studies graduate student.

    The Filipino-American Student Affairs dance group also did a hip-hop dance presentation and Brandon “”Brenda”” Toussaint, a microbiology sophomore, emceed the event and performed a drag dance.

    Carter said now is the time to recognize the often-overlooked contributions of gay and lesbian blacks in the civil rights movement.

    “”From now on, when we celebrate Black History Month and the (Martin Luther King Jr.) holiday, let’s remember our black gay and lesbian contributions,”” Carter said.

    About 40 students and community members were in attendance during the concert, which satisfied Carter and the organizers.

    “”I was happy with the turnout tonight,”” Carter said. “”You can’t go by numbers. Whoever comes, comes, and we have to be happy we got our message out. The fact that we made Awareness Week as successful as it was is great, and I think we should try to institutionalize it so more people will show up year after year.””

    Carter also spoke on the need for events like Awareness Week to let students from minority communities know they are not alone.

    “”For those of us who are out, we have to be the face and voice of those who can’t come out for whatever reason,”” Carter said.

    He added that families should not be defined by traditional standards and that gay families, whether parents or the children are gay, should be accepted.

    Carter also said the unity of the week’s events between the ethnic minorities and the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning communities was a beautiful accomplishment but will take work to keep going.

    “”Are we just about being gay? Or are we about equality for all people? Are we about justice? Or just us?”” Carter asked.

    Carter also was critical of the black religious community.

    “”Don’t name it and don’t claim it. You can be gay in our church, but don’t let anybody know,”” he said. “”So what should we do? Name it and claim it.””

    Maudree Callahan, the director of the Pride Alliance and a religious studies sophomore, said the Awareness Concert made the whole week feel like it was worth all the work.

    “”At the beginning of the week we had low turnouts, and it was discouraging, but Friday night we had a great turnout, and Mandy Carter’s speech was amazing and for Pride Alliance, APASA and C/HSA to come together for one reason – I knew it was a success,”” Callahan said.

    Callahan also said she hopes to incorporate more cultural centers in next year’s Awareness Week.

    “”People will see how beneficial an event like this is. To bring all these communities together on campus and to stop being separatist is what were all about,”” Callahan said. “”We’re fighting the same issues and we need to recognize our common ground.””

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