Pensacola, Florida
Sunday December 17th 2017

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Reigniting the Fire

By Andy Gray

Saturday, June 17 marks the return of PensacolaPRIDE.

The theme of this year’s weeklong celebration is “Reignite the Fire” and organizers are hoping it resonates with attendees.

“We’ve got to reignite the fire of activism and education. We want to motivate people to realize that there is still much to be done,” said Louis Cooper, President of Gay Grassroots of Northwest Florida.

This year marks the eighth annual PensacolaPRIDE organized by Gay Grassroots, which registered as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization two years ago.

“When we won the right to marry in 2015, some of us felt like we had achieved the pinnacle of LGBT rights,” said Cooper. “It was such a huge event. We did achieve a very important goal, but we are not done. As easily as the right to marry was granted, it could be taken away. There are still a lot of injustices faced by the LGBT community that need to be addressed. ”

Cooper hopes PensacolaPRIDE will draw attention to the lack of employment protections for LGBT people. “The right to work is even more basic to existence. We have to make a living,” Cooper said.

“Look at the so-called ‘bathroom bills’ that discriminate against trans people. We still have a lot of hearts and minds to change,” Cooper said.

“In order to secure recently gained rights and to continue the fight for those yet to be attained, we must go about the fight for civil rights and social justice in a smart and effective manner,” said Doug Landreth, co-founder and past president of Gay Grassroots. Landreth will discuss reasons and tools for advocacy in more detail during the LGBT Advocacy Training Workshop on June 19.

“While celebrating marriage equality, many forgot or failed to understand that while gays and lesbians can now marry we can still be fired from a job or be denied a promotion, denied housing, denied service at a hotel, restaurant or store, LGBT children or children of same-gender couples can be removed from or denied enrollment at a private school, same-gender spouses can be denied coverage on insurance, and the list goes on and on,” Landreth said.

The tradition to hold gay pride events in June began in 1970, on the anniversary of the Stonewall riots.

“It was impossible for a gay bar to obtain a liquor license, so all the gay bars were illegal,” Cooper said. “The people in the bar fought back. They resisted. They rioted for two nights. Gay pride celebrations were held to commemorate the day when we stood in the streets for the first time and said, ‘We deserve better. We deserve respect. We deserve dignity like every human being does.’ It’s about not being in the closet anymore, not being in the shadows, not being ashamed anymore.”

PensacolaPRIDE begins with the Festival in the Park on Saturday. Fifty vendors are slated to attend and live entertainment is scheduled for the entire day. The headliner is Jaimie Wilson, a 20-year-old female-to-male musician and activist.

A book reading and talk about marriage equality will take place on Thursday, June 22, co-hosted by Gay Grassroots and the Pensacola State College Gay-Straight Alliance. The event will feature Elizabeth Schwartz and her wife, Lydia Martin. Schwartz is a Miami civil rights attorney who was one of the lawyers that successfully argued Pareto v. Ruvin, the 2014 case that led to same-sex couples being able to legally wed in Florida. She is the author of “Before I Do: A Legal Guide to Marriage, Gay and Otherwise.” Martin has been a writer for the Miami Herald for the past thirty years.

You might also notice looking at the calendar of events, that admission to three of the four PensacolaPRIDE events is free. That’s not an accident.

“I don’t want someone to not be able to come to a Gay Grassroots event because they can’t afford it. I want to make sure that for the most part, anything that’s educational or activism-related is free,” Cooper said. “If we can do anything through PensacolaPRIDE to help a young person, or a senior who had to hide for his or her entire life, feel more comfortable with themselves, then we have achieved our goal. That’s what I hope people get out of PRIDE.”

PensacolaPRIDE
DETAILS: ggnwfl.com/PRIDE.html

2017 Event Schedule

FESTIVAL IN THE PARK
WHAT: A festival celebrating the LGBT community in Pensacola
WHEN: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, June 17
WHERE: Seville Square, 311 E. Government St.
COST: Free

LGBT ADVOCACY TRAINING
WHAT: A workshop presented by Gay Grassroots co-founder Doug Landreth
WHEN: 6 p.m. Monday, June 19
WHERE: Downtown Library, 239 N. Spring St.
COST: Free

MARRIAGE EQUALITY AND MORE
WHAT: A book reading and talk by attorney Elizabeth Schwartz and writer Lydia Martin
WHEN: 7 p.m. Thursday, June 22
WHERE: Pensacola State College Hagler Auditorium, 1000 College Blvd.
COST: Free

CELEBRATION BALL BANQUET
WHAT: A four-course dinner and live entertainment from Andy Davis’ Coastal Cabaret Ensemble
WHEN: 6 p.m. Saturday, June 24
WHERE:  Pensacola Opera Center, 5 S. Tarragona St.
COST: $45 in advance, $50 at the door