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Cultural Ceremonies Promote ‘A Sense of Belonging’ for Hundreds of Students

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Thirty-five students were presented with lavender cords during Cal State Fullerton’s 15th annual Lavender Celebration, a pre-commencement ceremony recognizing LGBTQ students and allies.

Lavender, a historically significant color in the LGBTQ community, represents the combination of pink and black triangles that gay men and lesbians were forced to wear as political prisoners in Nazi Germany.

Rudy Aguilar, a graduating Chicana and Chicano studies and sociology major, said participating in the ceremony allowed him to reflect on the history, resilience and solidarity of the LGBTQ community.

“Students who are queer, people of color or undocumented enter academic institutions that were historically, and sometimes presently, not structured for their success,” said Aguilar. “Even with our campus resources, there is still adversity that we must overcome. These ceremonies allow us to celebrate our success in overcoming these obstacles.

“For me personally, it was an opportunity to be unapologetic and to celebrate my queerness,” he added.

Aguilar was one of nearly 700 students who participated in the university’s cultural ceremonies between May 5-13, including the Asian Pacific Islander Desi American Recognition Celebration, Chicanx/Latinx and Native American Graduation Celebration, Dreamers Recognition Ceremony, Lavender Celebration, Pan-Afrikan Recognition Ceremony, and Pilipino American Recognition Celebration.

“Our cultural ceremonies are pivotal to closing the student experience, especially for any student who does not identify with dominant culture or the culture of predominantly and/or historically white, heteronormative and cisnormative institutions,” said Joy Hoffman, director of the university’s diversity initiatives and resource centers.

“For many of our students, access to various spaces on campus have been necessary throughout their time at Cal State Fullerton to help them persist and feel a sense of belonging,” said Hoffman. “The recognition ceremonies are an extension of these spaces and an opportunity to celebrate with families and loved ones in an intimate setting.”

Hosted by DIRC, the Chicano/Latino Faculty and Staff Association and the Pilipino American Student Association, the cultural ceremonies brought nearly 3,000 guests to campus.

For Antonio Faustino Jr., a graduating business administration major, donning a Philippines-inspired stole was a way to honor his family’s contributions to his educational journey.

“I wanted to be part of the Pilipino American Recognition Celebration because I have so much pride in my roots and culture of the Philippines,” he said. “What makes P-Grad great is that each student gets 15 seconds at the podium to thank their loved ones, and they get sashed by someone who has been a vital part of their college experience.”

This summer, the resource centers — African American, Asian Pacific American, Chicana and Chicano, LGBT Queer and Titan Dreamers — will move to a centralized location on the first floor of the Pollak Library, bringing increased visibility and access to their services.

“What’s so wonderful about Cal State Fullerton is that we acknowledge and honor that the Titan experience looks different for every student,” said Hoffman. “Our culturally relevant celebrations are another opportunity for students to be authentic to who they are and how they identify.”