Director Annie Russell trains students and faculty on what it means to be an ally and create a “safe zone” for those in the LGBTQ+ community. Photo by Anna Meassick.

The University of Rhode Island’s Gender and Sexuality Center has organized its sixteenth annual Safe Zone Blitz Week, which will be held from Feb. 25 through March 1.

Safe Zone Blitz week, held in the Gender and Sexuality Center, consists of various two hour workshops twice a day throughout the week. The workshops run from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Annie Russell, the director of the Gender and Sexuality Center, said the goal of Safe Zone Blitz week is to, “Advance awareness, knowledge and skills with regard to LGBT issues, and to create a visible network of allies on the campus.”

Gender and Sexuality Center building specialist, Nate Vaccaro, further shared that they will be sure to attend workshops throughout the week because Safe Zone Blitz week is a “simple way to make a big impact” and it does a good job of establishing “a community of supporters, along with sharing valuable knowledge, statistics, and tips.”

Though Vaccaro has gone to Safe Zone in previous semesters, they shared that if you are a newcomer it is a “great starting place.” As a returner, Vaccaro said “Safe Zone is a great refresher.”

Vaccaro also shared that the Gender and Sexuality Center has continued to organize Safe Zone Blitz because the week of workshops is one way that the center can intentionally work to “show a visible network of allies on campus.” Vaccaro said that this can “make or break a student’s comfort level.”

This year’s Safe Zone Blitz week started out with a mandatory workshop on Monday, Feb. 25. The workshop was an introduction to the week to establish “the basics on the LGBTQ community, issues surrounding the community and things people need to know to become an ally.”  

If students want to attend any other workshops, they must have signed up for, and attended, either the 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. or 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. introductory workshop.

After attending the introductory workshop on Monday, students can choose workshops from a wide array of topics, with each day focusing on a new topic. Earlier this week, students had the option to attend a workshop on race and ethnicity on Tuesday, and a transgender identities and lives workshop on Wednesday.

Thursday’s workshop topic is on fluid and non-binary identities. To finish off Safe Zone Blitz week, on Friday, students can attend a workshop on spirituality and religion. However, again, students must have attended the introductory workshop.

Since launching the program in August of 2012, turn out for the events has been on the rise in recent years. However, Vaccaro hopes to “see more students come out and take advantage of the resources available to them on campus.”

Registration for the workshops is free. The Gender and Sexuality Center is asking that students take the time to register for the various workshops as they aim to keep each workshop at or under 30 people. This is meant to create small groups that can more comfortably discuss these various topics and engage with one another.

You can register for the workshops online at their website at: web.uri.edu/gender-sexuality/safe-zone/. Any questions about the event can be directed to Annie Russell, the director of the Gender and Sexuality Center at annierussell@uri.edu.