On Oct 13, Gabby Rivera gave a keynote address as part of National Hispanic/Latinx Heritage and LGBTQ+ History Month in the IMU Whittenberger Auditorium. Rivera, the author of Juliet Takes a Breath and writer of the Marvel series America (superhero America Chavez, the first queer, Latinx teen-girl superhero), often addresses issues of identity and representation for people of color and the queer community within American popular culture. This event was sponsored by La Casa/Latino Cultural Center, LGBTQ+ Culture Center, the College of Arts + Sciences Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Hutton Honors College, the College of Arts + Sciences Latino Studies Program, and the Media School.
Lillian Casillas, director of La Casa/Latino Culture Center, stated she wanted to bring Rivera to IU for quite some time. She recognized that partnering with the LGBTQ+ Culture Center was the perfect way to not only do that but celebrate LGBTQ+ History Month and National Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month and reflect on the intersectionality between the two communities.
According to Casillas, Rivera was an excellent speaker. "She spoke on a variety of topics that represented a large percentage of people," Casillas said. "So it wasn't just about Latinos or Latinx or queer folks or women. It was all of that and more."
"It was a wonderful event," Bruce Smail, the LGBTQ+ Culture Center director, said. "Gabby connected so well with the audience." He recalls after the event, seeing a variety of attendees stay behind to have Rivera sign copies of her debut novel Juliet Takes a Breath and watch them interact with the speaker.
"There's so much to relate to with Gabby," Smail said. "She grew up in the Bronx; she was bullied and targeted. She was othered, and I think we connect with that because many of us were othered, too.
"I think part of Gabby's story is about being a person who survived being othered and has been successful at using those emotions in her work. During her speech, she noted that she first began writing as a way to cope and that journaling and her talent eventually grew to where she is now."
Both Smail and Casillas say they found Rivera's speech powerful and engaging and commented on how her story was universal.
"It wasn't just Latinx folks who were there," Casillas said. "People from other racial backgrounds were in attendance as well. And they were so empowered and enthralled by the energy of Gabby's speech. She managed to speak to everyone."
For more information on upcoming events hosted by the LGBTQ+ Culture Center and La Casa/Latino Cultural Center, please visit the IU Events Calendar or the LGBTQ+ Culture Center and La Casa/Latino Cultural Center respective websites.