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Lavender Graduation 2021 Keynote Speakers

15th Annual Lavender Graduation with bullhorns spilling out lavender on the left and right side. Janae Bonsu and Ash Stephens are featured side by side.

We are extremely excited to announce that the 2021 UIC Lavender Graduation keynote speakers will be Janaé Bonsu and Ash Stephens! This will be the first time that graduating UIC doctoral students will deliver the keynote address. Janaé and Ash are activist-scholars engaged in important campus and community work. We are honored to have them at this year’s Lavender Graduation.

Janaé Bonsu (She/Her) is an activist-scholar, licensed social worker, and PhD candidate at the University of Illinois-Chicago. Her research focuses on the intersection of interpersonal and institutional violence among Black people of marginalized genders, and the impact on survivors’ safety-related empowerment. Bonsu’s work is grounded in her personal experiences as a violence survivor and a commitment to an abolitionist praxis that does not rely on policing for safety. Bonsu’s political home is with BYP100, a national member-based organization of 18 to 35-year-olds organizing through a Black Queer Feminist lens.

Ash Stephens (He/They or Ash) is a writer, Trans activist-scholar, and PhD candidate at UIC in the Department of Criminology, Law and Justice with concentrations in Black Studies and Gender and Women’s Studies. His dissertation research focuses on Trans, Gender Nonconforming, and Nonbinary people’s experiences of policing and surveillance, as well as their strategies of resistance. Ash is also a member of the student-led Abolition@UIC collective, a board member of the Transformative Justice Law Project, and manager of policy & strategy at Transgender Law Center. Originally from Georgia, and finding a second home in Chicago, when he’s not dreaming towards our abolitionist future he’s usually watching a Marvel movie or playing Nintendo Switch.

Lavender Graduation is a celebration of the academic and personal achievements of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual + (LGBTQIA+) graduating students and their supportive communities. The event is open to all graduating students from every college at UIC. Lavender Graduation supports the attraction, retention, and successful graduation of many LGBTQIA+ students each year.

We hope that you can join us in celebrating our UIC graduates at this annual tradition along with Janaé and Ash on Friday, May 7, 2021 starting at 5:00 p.m. (CST). The live virtual celebration will take place via Zoom and real-time captioning (CART) will be provided.

Thank you to our co-sponsor, the UIC Honors College.