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Universal love in the University Center

Love was in the air Wednesday afternoon as the Stonewall Tigers and Collegiate Women's Association set up booths in the UC Atrium for Valentine's Day, and while the groups may represent different demographics, celebrating all types of love was the common theme.

Members of the Stonewall Tigers, the university's LGBTQ organization, offered photos and a warm welcome to students in the UC. Aurora Hatten of Stonewall Tigers said the event was meant to be inclusive for Tigers of every demographic.

"A lot of people in our circle aren't really into what Valentine's Day is generally about, romantic love," Hatten said. "So, we wanted an event celebrating all kinds of love in every form."

Hatten also explained the different forms of love, including romantic, platonic and self-love. The event reflected the goals of the organization, which is an all-inclusive experience for those in need of a safe place.

Members of the LGBTQ community can have difficulty finding a comfortable social group according to Porter Brasell, a new member of Stonewall Tigers. While he said he has not faced this struggle directly, he vowed to make sure every student at the University of Memphis felt safe and understood.

"For me, I've never had to worry about who I love or who I am, I was fortunate enough to grow up like that," Brasell said. "But I also know lots of people don't have that, so it's my responsibility to make sure everyone on campus feels welcome and secure with who they are."

Comfort can be a challenge to find for all kinds of people. Set up next to Stonewall Tigers were members of The Collegiate Women's Association, a group focused on creating a place for uncomfortable topics among women.

Dericka Miller and A.J. Gibbs ran the table, selling cookies and hot chocolate. It was a cold, wet day Wednesday, so students took the opportunity for warm snacks.

"Who wouldn't love cookies and hot chocolate on a cold day?" said Miller. "We are selling to raise funds for the organization but also to show love."

Students had the opportunity to decorate their cups and spend time at the booth to learn about Collegiate Women's Association. Like Stonewall Tigers, the group focused on comfort and a safe place to discuss difficult topics. The group is all about women empowerment, according to Miller. She invited any woman in need of a safe place to join the group via TigerZone, as they do not discriminate toward any demographic.

"When we promoted this, it wasn't just for couples. It was for singles as well," said Gibbs. "It can be for people celebrating self-love. As women, we need to love ourselves so we can empower each other more."

Valentine's Day was looked at from every perspective Wednesday. While the norms of the annual day featuring candies and flowers continue to exist, the recognition of every form of love was center stage in the UC.

One student who enjoyed cookies and conversation was junior marketing management major James Brown. He said that he liked that students were empowered, but universities often lack funding to give students a voice.

"I think it was really innovative, and I want more of that kind of thing to be on campus, but funding isn't there for it," Brown said. "Colleges often teach people to be employees, not employers."

The sense of community was apparent nonetheless. Valentine's Day will be Friday this year, but students began the festivities early and with an evolving initiative.

Students who are interested in joining Stonewall Tigers or Collegiate Women's Association can do so via TigerZone. Other inclusive groups and clubs can also be found on TigerZone to fit the interests of the student.

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