LANSING- As youth, dressed to the nines in ball gowns and tuxedos, arrived at the Lansing Center, a recently married couple posed for traditional bride and groom photographs by the Grand River, and the steam clock in downtown Lansing chimed out “O, What a Beautiful Morning” from the show “Oklahoma”. To a casual observer it must have appeared as just another dance event at the Lansing Center.
However, this event was the first statewide prom produced by the LBGT Community Coalition of Michigan. The only other LBGT prom of this kind is held at Affirmations in Ferndale, now in its 8th year and attracting about 150 young people. The LBGTCCM event drew 76 paid participants along with dozens of volunteers.
The youth decked the large ballroom with green ballons, gingham table clothes, and glitter-covered gold bricks and red glitter ruby slippers to tie in with this year’s theme, Carnival in Oz. The event featured two drag shows and tons of dancing. The Lansing Police Department assigned two officers to the event to deter any problems.
The prom was endorsed by Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Governor Jennifer Granholm. Spiral Video Dance Bar in Lansing’s Old Town was a major sponsor, assisting with underwriting the event, providing DJ’s, and helping with sound systems.
“It was lots of fun,” said Keisha Crowfoot, 23, of Lansing. “We had a blast.”
Crowfoot attended the event with her sister and identifies as an ally of the LBGT community.
Debbie Harding, who is a lesbian, advised the youth as they spent the last 6 months planning the event. She said the organization raised and spent nearly $6,000 to pull the prom off. And she is calling it a success.
“I think I’m happy with the way the evening turned out. For a first year event, that’s not bad,” she said standing in the hallway looking into the ballroom. “That dance floor was packed all night.”
She said that the group used MySpace to locate youth within a fifty mile radius of Lansing who identified as LBGTA in their profiles, and the group located 3,000 youth. Over 1,000 of them signed up for the MySpace group, Harding said.
“I had no idea there were that many young people out there,” she added.
Robert VanKirk, a 17-year-old gay man from Holt, helped spearhead the project. At the end of the night, while he was exhausted, he was also exuberant. “I’m very happy everyone left happy,” he smiled and then rattled off a litany of other events and ideas the group has, from building a community center, to creating pride events.
VanKirk’s mother, and his 74-year-old grandmother both helped out with the evening. Mom helped with security, while grandma was the volunteer coordinator.
Harding said the event will happen again next year and they will begin planning shortly. She also noted the event was about much more than a dance. “It’s about more than providing a prom. They’re trying to provide an alternative–a positive alternative,” she said.
For more information on the LBGT Community Coalition of Michigan visit them on the web athttp://LBGTCCM.com.