Kresge Presents PRIDE: 17th annual celebration of queer identity and community

Students with Sammy at Pride event
Photographs courtesy Stephen Louis Marino.
UCSC students at Pride event
UCSC students at Pride event

On Saturday, May 11, 2024, the UC Santa Cruz community gathered to celebrate 17 years of recognizing and honoring queer identity and community at the annual Kresge Presents PRIDE march and festival. This student-led event, the largest annual queer gathering at UC Santa Cruz, showcases the university’s commitment to LGBTQIA+ visibility, dignity, and diversity.

Kresge Presents PRIDE began as an initiative by the Kresge College Programs Office in 2007 and has grown into a favorite campus tradition. UC Santa Cruz students and community first participate in a campuswide march through the ten colleges and Family Student Housing, engaging in activities along the way, until they reach the grand finale—a festival with live music, food, desserts, merchandise, and entertainment.

This year, three designated affinity spaces were available for identifying members of the Queer, Trans, Black, Indigenous People of Color (QTBIPOC), transgender/nonbinary, and aromantic/asexual communities to relax, bond, decompress, and engage with each other in a safe, intimate space.

The event is largely organized by student volunteers, with support from the Kresge Programs Office staff. This collaborative effort not only brings the event to life but also provides students with leadership roles and opportunities to make a tangible impact on their community.

Julia Stewart, the student lead of the march committee and the aromantic/asexual affinity space, emphasized the significance of student involvement. “The bulk of event planning and choosing what’s going to be there and making PRIDE happen is on student volunteers,” she said. “This year, thanks to last year’s success, we had more people looking to volunteer and help than ever before.”

The event’s president, Alexandru Wechsler, highlighted the comprehensive planning process and the dedication of the volunteer team. “I manage every aspect of PRIDE, but I also have an awesome team of volunteers across different subcommittees,” Wechsler said. “My favorite part of this experience is seeing the event come together in the end, and seeing all of the people I’ve worked with come together to create an awesome time.”

Throughout its history, Kresge Presents PRIDE has played a crucial role in supporting student success by providing a platform for LGBTQIA+ students to connect, share resources, and build community. Joy Mellin, a member of the Lavender Club, shared her experience volunteering at the event. “I hope attendees learned about the resource centers and support available for LGBTQIA+ students. Finding those resources and that community is really important,” Mellin said. “I know when I first came here I wanted to find a community of people who are like me and who understand me, so once I did it really helped.”

The festival at Porter Quad is a culmination of the march, featuring live music, food, and numerous resource centers and student groups tabling to distribute information and support. Justin Prince, the guitarist of the student band CaucAsian2, reflected on the event’s broader significance. “PRIDE is about making people feel better about their lives and giving them opportunities and showing them that they’re accepted,” Prince said.

Wechsler spoke of the importance of these events in creating a supportive environment for queer students. “I want it to end up being a fun space for people to gather within their community,” Wechsler said. “I also want it to be a space where people can share their stories, and their identity and relate on that level … I want everyone to be able to take advantage of the opportunities that are here on campus.”

The 17-year history of Kresge Presents PRIDE at UC Santa Cruz reflects the university’s commitment to an inclusive campus culture. Led by students, Kresge Presents PRIDE creates opportunities to engage, celebrate, and access resources, with the promise of continuing this tradition for years to come.