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Indigo Girls Address Diversity Issues
During Day of Music and Advocacy at Jorgensen
February 28, 2000

Advocacy and music mixed in Jorgensen Feb. 17, as folk rockers the Indigo Girls served as the central act in a day of networking and social education.

The day included a question-and-answer session with Amy Ray and Emily Saliers, the duo that make up the Indigo Girls. About 300 people packed Harriet S. Jorgensen Theater and asked questions about Ray's and Saliers' beliefs and their music, the two of which are often intertwined.

While Ray and Saliers answered questions, dozens of representatives from groups including the Connecticut Outreach Society - a group for transgender people; AIDS Outreach Hartford; and Children From the Shadows - an organization for gay and lesbian youth - tended tables at an Advocacy Fair in the lobby areas of Jorgensen.

The event was planned in response to anti-gay and anti-Semitic incidents on campus last fall, when Rodney Rock, director of Jorgensen, approached Martha Nelson, director of the Rainbow Center - a University center for gay and lesbian students - and asked what he could do to help the campus recover.

He suggested a concert by the out and outspoken Indigo Girls. The idea for an advocacy fair in and around the lobby of Jorgensen Auditorium crystallized; and help was readily forthcoming.

Ray and Saliers are no strangers to advocacy. They are vocal in support of gay rights and gun control and against the death penalty, and they often have advocacy groups display information at their concerts. During their visit to UConn, the Indigo Girls hailed the efforts of the campus organizations at the Advocacy Fair.

"We're proud of ya'll and inspired. Diversity is the beauty of life and we're glad to be here," Saliers said.

"The media would have never covered this 10 years ago," Ray said. "Hate crimes are being noticed and more reported and hopefully they'll stop."

After a set by the folk-oriented Michelle Malone, the Indigo Girls took the stage of the larger auditorium in an acoustic performance that displayed just how loudly and clearly a voice or two can be heard. A chorus of about 2,500 in the packed auditorium joined them.

While the crowd sang, the advocates tending booths at the fair spoke of what they had accomplished with the help of the Indigo Girls.

Becky and John Glezen represented Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. The two are co-leaders of the Hartford chapter.

"It's good networking," Becky Glezen said. "We're hearing a lot of people say 'I think I'll take this (pamphlet) for my parents.'" She thanked the Indigo Girls for helping draw attention to the issues represented: "We send our heartfelt thanks. They are fabulous spokeswomen. They're my 'sheroes.'"

The event was co-sponsored by The Rainbow Center, Office of the Chancellor, Student Affairs, SUBOG, Campus Activities, Women's Center, School of Fine Arts and Sound Excursions, with the support of The Connecticut Commission on the Arts. Also, the Asian American Cultural Center, H. Fred Simons African Cultural Center, Puerto Rican Latin American Cultural Center, Hillel Foundation, Center for Greek Life, University Catering/Dining Services, Metroline and UCIMT.

Judy Hartling