Open mic night, candlelight vigil highlight annual Rainbow Week


Brian Lee/Daily Senior Staffer

Organizers of Rainbow Week painted the rock Sunday. The group’s programming is designed to integrate freshmen into Northwestern’s LGBTQ community.

Naib Mian, Reporter

The warm tones of red and white light shone down on red and blue modernist tapestries and wall-mounted boxes as more than 30 students filtered in to the Dittmar Gallery in Norris University Center on Wednesday. With cookies and punch in hand, audience members watched their peers perform, sing and display their creative talents at an open mic night. 

The open mic was one part of Rainbow Alliance’s Rainbow Week, which kicked off Sunday with the group’s yearly tradition of painting The Rock and is focused on integrating freshmen into Northwestern’s LGBTQ community. The event was co-sponsored by For Members Only.

Rainbow Week is timed to coincide with National Coming Out Day on Friday, said Darien Wendell, Rainbow Alliance programming committee member.

Throughout Rainbow Week, members mix lighthearted social gatherings, like a movie night on Thursday, with more serious events like a candlelit vigil.

At Tuesday’s vigil, about 15 students in a soft hue of candlelight formed a circle outside University Hall. They shared personal anecdotes and held a moment of silence for LGBTQ victims of bullying as well as those who have experienced physical and emotional abuse.

Paul Koscumb, co-president of Rainbow Alliance, said the candlelit vigil is an important event that builds community within the organization.

“It’s very powerful for us to be able to tell each other stories and share experiences,” the Weinberg senior said. “The vigil has a certain emotional resonance.”

Members discussed their individual coming-out experiences, which they said varied but ultimately reflected a common bond.

The community is “an environment where you can share openly and not have fear of negative responses,” said Wendell, a SESP sophomore.

Angel Ayon, a Weinberg freshman, sought out Rainbow Alliance upon arriving at NU and signed up for the group at the activities fair.

“Rainbow Week has been so lovely. It’s been a really beautiful experience so far,” Ayon said. “Everyone in Rainbow is really welcoming. They’re not just anybody. They’re becoming friends.”

Although Rainbow Alliance emphasizes community building, the group also leads activist efforts on campus and has historically advocated for gender-neutral bathrooms at NU. The issue is one the University could still improve upon, Koscumb said.

This year’s Rainbow Alliance executive board is the most diverse Koscumb said he has seen, with members who identify as gay, transgender, bisexual, lesbian and people of color. The board’s composition is a reason to be hopeful, Koscumb said.

On Friday, the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association will host a meet and greet with Rainbow Alliance at JJ Java, 911 Foster St. Rainbow Week will be capped off Saturday with a “BBQueer” on the Foster-Walker Complex lawn.

“A lot of Rainbow events are coming up that I hope will be fun for the whole campus, not just Rainbow,” Ayon said.

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