On August 25, a group of 38 Davidson College alumni, faculty, staff, students, parents, and friends marched down Tryon Street in uptown Charlotte as one of the first groups to participate in the reinstated Bank of America Pride Parade. They added some color to the traditional Davidson red and black, bearing a rainbow and red banner that read, “Davidson College supports its LGBTQ students, alumni, faculty, staff, and friends.”
Recently appointed Assistant Dean of Students Becca Taylor ’06 orchestrated efforts to have a Davidson group in the parade. The group’s hard work culminated in a celebration of identity and a sense of solidarity on the day of the parade. Taylor recalls, “I loved seeing students interact with those from other schools, such as UNC Charlotte. Through events like this, the college can get more plugged in to the Charlotte area.”
Student Government Association President Chris Ragsdale ’14 agreed that students of all interests should take advantage of what Charlotte has to offer. “Davidson tends to have both an international and national focus, but sometimes we forget that there are so many resources close by,” he said.
Ragsdale added that he also enjoyed the rare opportunity to join faculty, staff, alumni, and thousands of others passionately supporting the same cause. “Everyone in attendance radiated positivity.”
As Mark Angel ’13 left the parade, a man who happened to be a Davidson alumnus stopped him to thank him and introduce him to his mother. That moment contextualized the whole experience for Angel. “I realized that there were people at Davidson who didn’t have the support we have now, and it was really cool to be acknowledged as part of the effort to make that support visible,” he explained.
Alumni who have maintained strong connections to the college have also taken notice of this shift in support. Jane Campbell ’87, who served as the most recent keynote speaker of the Davidson Women’s Leadership Conference, joined Heather McKee ’87 to travel to Charlotte for the parade. “When we attended Davidson, we didn’t acknowledge that there was an LGBTQ community because we didn’t admit it to ourselves” said Campbell. McKee agreed, adding, “Now the community is acknowledged, but we still have a ways to go.”
Taylor has also noticed that Davidson’s Gay-Straight Alliance is far more active now than when she attended. “The climate has really changed—it just feels like a warmer place,” she said. “I’ve seen the biggest change in the amount of open dialogue. Before, the LGBTQ community wasn’t on the radar as something to be discussed. Multiple groups on campus now create events that foster discussion.”
Multiple campus organizations and offices have put forth initiatives to cultivate a more accepting environment for the LGBTQ community, including a career panel that invited LGBTQ alumni to speak to students on topics such as how to identify LGBTQ-friendly employers. The new “Safe Space” training program, designed by various office representatives, is another initiative that teaches groups of students about the LGBTQ community by providing them with general information, terminology, history, and action steps to become an ally.
Davidson continues to support minority efforts across campus, most recently exemplified in Taylor’s appointment to assistant dean of students, a position that often advocates for underrepresented student groups at Davidson. “The more we can continue to have formal structures in place that welcome all students, the better. Visible initiatives such as the Multicultural Office, Multicultural House, and Safe Space program serve as great examples,” said Taylor.
For Ragsdale, Davidson’s participation symbolized that the college supports its LGBTQ community and encourages students to take a stand for causes they passionately support. “Now more than ever, it’s important to be an advocate of LGBTQ and minority rights in general,” he said.