With UGBC’s Annual Gala Masquerade taking place Dec. 6, The Heights sat down with gala organizers before the event. For them, the gala is a unique event in the year for Boston College’s GLBTQ community.
The Annual Gala was first organized in 2009 by the UGBC’s GLBTQ Leadership Council. “The goal of the annual gala is to celebrate the GLBTQ community,” said Alisha Wright, manager of UGBC’s Diversity and Inclusion Programming Board. “Our aim, specifically, is to get people from the GLBTQ community as well as allies to come together and appreciate the value of the community and everything that has going on with it as well.”
This year, organizers made changes in the gala’s structure and form to provide a different and more complete experience to attendees of the gala. An innovation for this year was that the event featured a seated dinner. “We’re really excited about doing a seated dinner, which is something we haven’t done before, and are looking forward to provide these new experiences to make the gala a better experience,” Wrights said. “So it will feature a seated dinner, the presentation of our keynote speaker, and then it will feature a dance. The latter part of the night is just dancing, relaxing, and having fun.” Organizers also said they wanted to make the gala a more formal event, and that was also a reason for the inclusion of a seated dinner.
This year’s keynote speaker was Stephen Boswell, the president and chief executive officer of Fenway Health. A graduate from University of Washington, Boswell was also member of President Clinton’s Council on HIV/AIDS, the vice-President and treasurer of the American Academy of HIV Medicine, and is also currently a member of the Board of Directors of the HIV Medicine Association.
Much of Boswell’s work has also been directed at fighting for the GLBTQ community, especially his work at Fenway Health. Fenway Health, which is currently directed by Boswell, has been one of the most important organizations providing health care for the GLBTQ community and fighting and preventing AIDS, both inside and outside the GLBTQ community. Fenway Health also has the largest GLBTQ health research facility in the United States. Recently, Boswell has been involved in advocating for equal health coverage and care for the GLBTQ population.
Organizers say Boswell is an ideal speaker for the event because of his experience in fighting for the cause of the GLBTQ and the HIV/AIDS communities. “Dr. Boswell will bring an interesting dynamic for the event. He has been integral in working for health for AIDS patients and fighting for the rights of the GLBTQ community,” Wright said. “His work against AIDS at Fenway Health is something very important. He’s done so much for the community, and we think it will be great to have someone based in Boston come talk to BC students.” Organizers try to give the gala a different focus each year, to provide a more complete experience through time for attendees. “Each year we try to have a different speaker talk about a different topic every year, and we think Dr. Boswell can give a very good focus to our gala this year,” Wright said.
The motivations for organizing the gala, organizers say, is the need to better appreciate sexual diversity in campus. “The gala is one of the four core events that we want to make sure to organize each year. We think it is really important to have an event that celebrates the GLBTQ community in campus, especially at BC, a place that doesn’t necessarily have the strongest community,” Wrights said. For Wright, the event is important of creating a friendly environment for the community. “We want to have a place where those in the GLBTQ community can feel safe and appreciated, as they should be, and also a place where people who do not identify as GLBTQ can engage and celebrate with them. We want to foster a safe and fun environment of unity.”
One of the main goals this year was to increase the attendance to the event. “We’re working on widening the impact of the gala on the campus. In the past, we have not had as many people come as we would like, so we’re working on that. We want to have more people attend the event, where people are able to have conversations and spread awareness, and at the same time have fun. So one of main our goals is to turn this into a campus-wide event and have more people come,” Wright said.
For organizers, this does not mean the event is not successful. “We do believe this event is effective for the people who do attend it,” Wrights said. “People have a great time, they learn something new, and they hear a fabulous keynote speaker, and have the opportunity to engage in meaningful interactions with him or her. So, the event is very successful. What we need to do is make this successful event available to more people.”
Organizers once again say that attendance to the gala and similar events needs to increase for those events to have a campus-wide effect. “One of the big steps toward reaching more inclusion is having more people attend events like these, where there is an inclusive environment, where people have the opportunity to engage with each other and have fun and at the same time become more aware,” he said.
Featured Image by Alex Gaynor / Heights Senior Staff