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Monday November 24th 2014

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Marching Toward Equality

By Sarah McCartan

Friday, June 14 marks the return of PensacolaPRIDE. Presented by the Gay Grassroots Association of Northwest Florida, this annual weeklong celebration upholds PensacolaPRIDE’s mission, “to celebrate and promote the history, courage, diversity and worth of the Pensacola area gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons individually and collectively as the LGBT Community.”

Weeklong events held at various locations include a community youth prom, documentary series, celebration ball, chili dinner and line dance, town hall and open microphone and stage events. The week culminates with a daylong festival in Seville Square, Saturday, June 22, including food, arts, crafts, entertainment and a “Wedding of Hearts” Ceremony.

The event began locally in the early 1990s as a single day observance centered around National Coming Out Day on October 11. During this time period, it remained in seclusion and was strictly tied to socializing—evolving from small scale meetings and home dinner parties to a gathering at the Naval Live Oaks area in Gulf Breeze.

As the event became more visible, the celebration expanded into a multi-day event and moved to June to align with national celebrations, many of which occur around the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, marked as sparking the gay rights movement.

Today’s PensacolaPRIDE event, while certainly still maintaining social components, is strongly rooted in activism. This year’s theme is “Marching Toward Equality.”

“We’re trying to use this PensacolaPRIDE to say that rights that are denied because of either sexual orientation or identity and expression are part of the civil rights movement,” said Doug Landreth, event organizer and President of Gay Grassroots.

Although following closely behind Memorial Day Weekend in the calendar year, Landreth is quick to distinguish the two. He notes that PensacolaPRIDE events are family friendly and seek to welcome and involve the local straight community, whereas Memorial Day tends to be heavily driven by tourists, showing fewer visible signs of integration.

“It’s a weeklong of enjoyable events that are family friendly. We encourage the straight citizens of Pensacola to come to our events to see that while we certainly have a very rich history, culture and heritage we wish to honor and preserve, we are not a foreign entity to be feared,” Landreth explained.

One of the events Landreth is especially looking forward to bringing back for a second year, is the community Youth Prom, which provides an opportunity for students to bring a same gender partner to prom in a venue that is safe and comfortable, eliminating the risk of being subjected to bullying.

“We think that it is important to offer an event for the youth. Very little progress has been made in the bullying issue. It doesn’t have to be based on gender identification. Many students perceived as LGBT are subjected as well,” he said.

Another event is the Celebration Ball, highlighting “Heroes of Equality”—celebrating those pioneers who have come before, but also shedding a light on the responsibility of members of today’s community to serve as tomorrow’s heroes.

“No matter where you happen to be in your journey of coming out and self-acceptance, and being valued, there are those that have come before you who we owe a great deal of respect to. We owe it to them to pick up the torch and carry on the fight. We also owe it to those coming up behind us. We have a duty to make it better for them,” said Landreth.

Saturday’s festival in Seville Square—the most heavily attended event—begins with a symbolic march to and from Martin Luther King Plaza. A special component of the day is the “Wedding of Hearts,” ceremony allowing couples the opportunity to exchange their vows. Landreth reminds that at this time, this is the furthest they are able to go in the state of Florida. Straight couples also participate to show their solidarity.

Overall, PensacolaPRIDE is a time to promote a culture of understanding within a family friendly, community-centered environment.

“Through this week, there can be a lot of understanding that comes about. It provides members of the LGBT community a time to enjoy events in a way where they may feel safer, but yet these events are those they can certainly introduce their straight friends to—so they can enjoy on a level ground,” he said.

For more information, visit GGnwfl.com. To purchase advance tickets to PensacolaPRIDE events, email PensacolaPRIDE@gmail.com or call 685-2881.

Pensacola PRIDE 2013—Event Lineup

Friday, June 14, LGBT Youth Prom, 6 p.m. – 11 p.m. This community wide youth prom is for all LGBT persons and supportive allies, ages 16 to 21 years. Tickets are $20. Refreshments and non-alcoholic beverages to be provided. Holy Cross MCC, 3130 W. Fairfield Drive
Saturday, June 15, “Heroes of Equality” Celebration Ball, 7 p.m. – 11 p.m. This community wide semi-formal event is for all LGBT persons and supportive allies, 21 years and older. Suggested dress is reflective of “Woman’s Suffrage/Seneca Falls-1948,” “Black Liberation/Selma-early 1965,” “LGBT Rights/Stonewall-1969,” or Gold Tone. Tickets are $50. Includes dinner, live stage show “Music Through the Decades” produced by Lacy Delanio, dancing and specialty drinks. American Legion Hall, 1401 W. Intendencia St.
Sunday, June 16, LGBT Film Series, showtimes at 1, 3, 5, & 7 p.m.  One $5 ticket is good for all four screenings: 1 p.m. “Brother Outsider;” 3 p.m. “If These Walls Could Talk 2;” 5 p.m. “Bully;” 7 p.m. “Were the World Mine.” Unitarian Universalist Church of Pensacola, 9888 Pensacola Blvd.
Monday, June 17, Town Hall Meeting “Homophobia in Pensacola: Fact of Fiction” 6 p.m. Free presentation by Dr. Susan Walch, of The University of West Florida Psychology Research Lab. Learn how gender, race, religious affiliation, political affiliation, level of education and individual interactions affect the climate of homophobia.  Downtown Library, 239 N. Spring St.
Tuesday, June 18, Day of Action “Stand Up, Step Out, Movie It Forward.” Take a few moments today and “Be A Positive Force” by writing a letter, calling into a radio show, coming out to someone, etc.  Everyone is encouraged to share their stories on the PensacolaPRIDE Facebook page.
Wednesday, June 19, Chili Dinner & Line Dance, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m.  Enjoy homemade chili (beef or vegetarian), slaw, cornbread and brownies at 6 p.m., followed by country line dancing at 7 p.m. Tickets are $7. Country attire is encouraged but not required. Holy Cross MCC, 3130 W. Fairfield Drive
Thursday, June 20, Performance Showcase “Diversity United,” 7 p.m. – 9 p.m. Open microphone/open stage performance showcase. Tickets are $5. All artistic expressions are welcome: poetry, song, music, dance, etc. Performers email PensacolaPRIDE@gmail.com to sign up. First City Arts Center, 1060 N. Guillemard St.
Saturday, June 22, Equality March “Honoring the Past, Securing the Future,” 9 a.m. Free event. Symbolically follow in the footsteps those who marched in Seneca Falls for Women’s Suffrage, Selma Alabama for Minority Rights, and outside Stonewall for LGBT rights. We leave Seville Park, pass by MLK Plaza, walk down Palafox, before returning to Seville Park. Everyone is encouraged to bring rainbow flags and signs and wear purple.
Saturday June 22, Festival in the Park, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. Free day of live entertainment, arts and crafts and festival food. Includes annual Military salute, “Wedding of Hearts” ceremony, and more. Bring your chairs or blankets and plan on spending the entire day. Historic Olde Seville Square Park.