SOUTH ORANGE / MAPLEWOOD, NJ — As part of annual June Pride Month celebrations across SOMA and Essex County, Maplewood and South Orange are again partnering with the South Orange–Maplewood School District and others in the community to present SOMA Lavender Graduation 2021, to be held in person and virtually on Thursday, June 3, at 6:30 p.m. in the Columbia High School Auditorium.
Lavender Graduation is an annual ceremony held in many schools and communities across the country to honor and celebrate lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, non-binary, queer, asexual, intersex and allied students, and to acknowledge their achievements and contributions in school and community.
As last year’s Lavender Graduation was canceled due to the pandemic, this year’s event will honor CHS graduates from the classes of 2021 and 2020. Any graduating 2021 high school senior or 2020 graduate who lives in South Orange or Maplewood may register to attend.
“This is a noteworthy event, and we look forward to celebrating our LGBTQIA-plus graduating seniors from the classes of 2021 and 2020, and their accomplishments,” Superintendent of Schools Ronald G. Taylor said.
“We want to celebrate and honor the hard work and successes of our LGBTQIA-plus youth during Pride Month, which honors the history and recognizes the many contributions of LGBTQIA-plus persons in our society,” Maplewood Deputy Mayor Dean Dafis said.
“Visibility matters,” SOMA Board of Education First Vice President Shannon Cuttle said. “Showing LGBTQIA-plus youth that their lives matter by creating inclusive, welcoming, affirming spaces in our schools and communities and honoring and celebrating the experiences of our youth, increases acceptance and lets them know they are not alone.”
“This is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate our LGBTQIA-plus youth and families in SOMA and acknowledge their hard work, contributions and success as their authentic selves,” South Orange Trustee Bob Zuckerman said.
The first SOMA Lavender Graduation was held in 2018 and marked the first known township and public school district celebration in New Jersey. The first Lavender Graduation ceremony was originally founded at the University of Michigan in 1995.
Members of the classes of 2020 and 2021 who would like to attend should register at https://tinyurl.com/2f45cvsc. Registration closes May 23.
The public is encouraged to come out in support of the Lavender graduates. Masks must be worn and attendees must social distance.