National Coming Out Week at Abington: Using your voice for social justice

Penn State Abington National Coming Out Week

Poet, radio personality, and facilitator Shaashawn Dial at Penn State Abington. 

Credit: Pam Brobst

ABINGTON, Pa. — Shaashawn Dial, an advocate for LGBTQQIAAP2S — lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, allies, pansexual, and 2Spirit — communities celebrated National Coming Out Week with the Penn State Abington campus community.

Introducing herself with a poignant yet funny poem, Dial focused on the importance of discovering, using and re-finding your voice to advocate for yourself and others. It is critical to achieve holistic ownership of mental, physical, and spiritual health, she said.

“Don’t get paralyzed, your voice can create impact at any level,” said Dial, before explaining the four levels of change toward social justice and equity: individual, communal, organizational and institutional.

She encouraged the students, faculty and staff who attended to use mantras and descriptive language to help tune their voice.

“Paint pictures with words,” Dial, a board member of the LGBT Center of Central Pennsylvania, instructed. “Storytelling is a tool in our fight for social justice.”

"Your voice can create impact at any level."

— Shaashawn Dial, LGBTQQIAAP2S advocate

She then asked students to describe how much their anger weighs, the color of loneliness, and what liberation sounds like, among other questions.

To affect change, she encouraged the audience to understand the dynamics of power in different situations.

“You need to know who is at the table and who isn’t, who writes the checks. You need to know the spectrum of possibility,” she said.

She closed her presentation with the reminder that “everyone is oppressed and privileged at the same time.”

Members of the Spectrum organization at Abington share Dial's goals. The group strives to create an inclusive, open environment for LGBT students.

The campus is also an active participant in the “All In” campaign at Penn State, an ongoing University-wide initiative that brings students, faculty and staff together with a commitment to create and maintain a diverse and inclusive atmosphere — one that is respectful of all values and beliefs, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, age, sexual orientation, abilities, background, veterans status and political beliefs.

Penn State Abington, formerly the Ogontz campus, offers baccalaureate degrees in 19 majors at its suburban location just north of Philadelphia. Nearly half of our 4,000 students complete all four years at Abington, with opportunities in undergraduate research, the Schreyer honors program, NCAA Division III athletics, and more. Students can start the first two years of more than 160 Penn State majors at Abington and complete their degrees at University Park or another campus. Lions Gate, our first residence hall, opened in August 2017.