by Jessica Carreras
On a hot, late spring day, over 50,000 people gathered in downtown Ferndale for one reason: to celebrate Pride.
The June 7 event was marked this year by the absence of any paid staff members to oversee the festival. However, extra volunteers more than made up for it, helping with planning, set up and seeing that the festival ran smoothly. “(The volunteers) exceeded our expectations,” said Pride Chair David Wait. “We had more volunteers than last year.”
Wait explained that the night before Pride, they were behind in volunteers, but the outpouring of willing helpers on the day of, more than made up for it, bringing the total number of volunteers to around 260.
The daylong event saw performances by the likes of Nervous But Excited and Paul Lekakis, as well as empowered speeches from community activists, such as Triangle Foundation Director of Policy Bernadette Brown, who educated pridegoers about pending LGBT legislation in Michigan.
The usual attractions were there – including the Tretter LGBT History Project, Team Detroit Aquatics Dunk Tank and Family Fun Tent, with a couple new additions, such as a puppet show that entertained kids every few hours.
But more than the booths of food and rainbow-colored goods, and more than the sweaty, bumping dance floor and various genres of music flowing from every corner, 2009’s Motor City Pride was marked by the people who attended it. Some were clad in leather or kilts, while others wore as little as briefs. Some came for the first time, and some celebrated a decade of attending the festival. However, whatever age, ethnicity or orientation – attendees of the event, named the Pride for Change, were eager to speak about what adjustments they wanted to see in LGBT issues in the state, country and world.
Marriage the word of the day
Marriage was the word of the day, likely sparked by months of news – both good and bad – on the subject from around the country. In particular, the announcement in May that the California Supreme Court would uphold Proposition 8, as well as the following weeks of protests across the U.S., were on people’s minds as they contemplated what changes they want to see.
“The legalization of civil unions,” a Lake Orion pridegoer who was there with his partner said about what was most important to him.
“I think gay people should be able to get married,” agreed Kaytee Malewicz, a 15-year-old Madison Heights high school student.
However, Caleigh Carlesin, a friend of Malewicz’s, argued that the bigger picture is more important than specific issues like marriage. “Just people hating gays (needs to change),” Carlesin said.
And some at Motor City Pride claimed that they just wanted it all. “In the world, I just want (being gay) to be more public,” said 53-year-old Shell of Ypsilanti, who attended Pride with her son. “I want everything to be legal, gay marriages and everything because I was married to a woman for eight and a half years and we could never do it legally.”
But although attendees of Pride have much to desire in terms of LGBT rights, Wait said the response from the community was all positive. “We were so pleased with the turnout from the community and the arrangements to have a new layout,” Wait said. “It worked out quite well. There were a couple little areas that were a little congested that we’ll look at in the future, but I’m just overwhelmed with the response from everybody.”
Wait commented further that the new layout of Motor City Pride, which ran this year just along Nine Mile Road, instead of on two streets, gave the impression that the festival was larger and more profound. “I think for people just visiting, to see the huge, long festival, it just says so much more about our movement and our celebration,” he explained. “To see it all in one place, it was really a nice feeling.”