PB Poorman Pride Center uses tech to build community

UWW Pride Center uses tech to build community

Students+Alex+Koon+and+Ash+Anderson+make+Valentines+in+the+PB+Poorman+Pride+Center.+

Students Alex Koon and Ash Anderson make Valentines in the PB Poorman Pride Center.

Kali Anditon, Assistant Business & Technology Editor

Since the world slowed and countries shut down due to the pandemic, feelings of connection and closeness are important in the daily lives of millions. Communities have moved to creating virtual spaces where they can build a sense of togetherness.
Discord, a platform that was originally created to connect video gamers worldwide, has become a home for Whitewater’s PB Poorman Pride Center and its students.
Discord’s mission is creating a service that gives people a place to talk, build relationships and belong.
“The Pride Center Discord began as a virtual community during the summer of 2020,” says LGBT* coordinator and Women’s and Gender Studies instructor Stephanie Selvick. “Undergraduate LGBTQ leaders wanted a space to process, organize and connect during what is now referred to as the ‘twin pandemics’ of COVID-19 and the racial justice uprising. But it’s grown and evolved beyond what even I imagined, transforming into an important hub of LGBTQ campus life. It’s provided a platform for mutual aid, check-ins during precarious times, holiday gift exchanges, and deconstructing gender and sexuality.”
The Pride Center’s virtual space consists of eight different channels, each with its own designated purpose, including sharing photos of pets or plants and sending memes.
This extension of the Pride Center is made to share glee with other community members.
“I was off campus last semester, and will be again this semester,” says IMPACT president and LGBT peer educator Chamomile Harrison. “I have not seen my friends in person in months. Yet, the Discord server has allowed me to connect with my friends while also meeting new people. The different channels allow for more of a personalized experience. By talking and leaning on each other for support, it’s brought joy to me at times when I might otherwise be isolated from a community.”
The connections being built online will continue to thrive when the world begins to return to one without social distancing protocols. Alongside the Virtual Pride Center on Discord, virtual meetings are held Tuesday nights by the center’s student organization extension IMPACT.
In addition, Women’s and Gender Studies’ lecturer Ashley Barnes-Gilbert has organized virtual “Feminist Coffee Shops” for further community. The Pride Center will even be hosting a skill sharing workshop series this spring and providing virtual copies of their fall 2020 Pride Magazine.
“I believe that the importance of these connections is simply that we’re here, and we’re not going anywhere, as cliché as that sounds,” says Pride intern Avery Ward. “Having a space to fill in when we can’t go back home is imperative during these times, otherwise people would be extremely isolated and alone. I think that having a virtual space like the Discord helps show people that they aren’t alone, and that queer people can do a lot of things, and you aren’t limited because of your identities. You can do whatever you set your mind to, and you can have pride doing it. Our Pride Magazine shows this, and the community supports it.”

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