The Importance of Being an Ally

What defines someone as an ally of the LGBTQIA+ community? 

“An ally of the LGBTQIA+ community is someone who not only supports the rights of LGBTQIA+ individuals, but also actively works to advance their rights. If you’re an ally, you are going to ensure that the community has the rights and protections that everyone has,” said Dr. Mark Congdon, a professor at Sacred Heart University in the School of Communication and Media Arts (SCMA).  

Allyship is believed not to be an identity, nor a reward.

“Allyship is a process of building relationships based on trust, dependability and responsibility with marginalized individuals and/or groups,” said Julia Lawrence, Chief Diversity Officer. “The work is not self-seeking or self-gratifying; it is for others.”

Robert Johnson is the Director of Multicultural Affairs, leader of the Multicultural Center and an alumnus of Sacred Heart. He finds it important to show allyship to the LGBTQIA+ Sacred Heart community. 

“LGBTQIA+ students face a lot of unique sources of oppression or discriminatory harassment. They can face it from their own families, primarily, they can face it from students, faculty, staff,” said Johnson. “It is important for anyone who is of a marginalized background to know I support them and for them to understand that I see them as a human first before anything.”

One way to practice healthy allyship is through immersing oneself in the experiences and history of oppressed and marginalized groups. 

“We’ve recently started an Asian American Pacific Islander Club, there’s a Women’s Empowerment Alliance Club, International Student Council, Black Student Union, Multicultural Council, Italian Club, Gender Sexuality Alliance,” said Johnson. “All of these clubs open students up to a different experience outside of the superficial norm that we may have on campus sometimes. What we aim to do is celebrate each other’s existence and the thoughtfulness behind this conversation of diversity, equity and inclusion.”

In addition to joining clubs/organizations, there are other ways students can be active allies of the LGBTQIA+ community.

“The Multicultural Center puts on amazing events such as ally training that I myself have attended,” said sophomore Ashley Czermak. “Rob Johnson is an amazing teacher and educator who provided the SHU community with his informative presentations that allow white students like me to learn beyond their privilege.” 

This past November, Congdon worked closely with Sacred Heart’s Multicultural Center to promote allyship by creating a public awareness campaign. 

“The ‘Uniting Hearts: Paving the way to Financial Freedom’ campaign is focused on financial literacy and specifically in terms of resources, especially for marginalized students,” said Congdon. 

On Oct. 13, National Coming Out Day, Congdon shared a personal story on the Sacred Heart Multicultural Center Instagram (@shu_multicultralcenter_).

Within the nine-minute Instagram video, Congdon shared his coming out story and the role allyship played in his coming out experience. Andita Parker-Llyod, the Director of the Multicultural Center at the university Congdon graduated from, was an ally and support system for him when he came out to his parents. 

“I just remember feeling this big sigh of relief, and if it wasn’t for Andita being there, I don’t feel like I could have done it,” said Congdon in the video. “Having an ally is so important.”

The Multicultural Center is a beneficial resource for all individuals within the Sacred Heart community who would like to learn more about allyship. 

“The Multicultural Center is so important to the students at SHU, even for students who don’t necessarily identify as a historically marginalized group,” said Congdon. “I think the Multicultural Center serves as a way to educate and inform how to be an ally.” 

For more information on how to be an ally, contact, or stop in the Multicultural Center located in HC111. 

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