BTL Staff Report
See additional photo gallery by Kendall Casey
Rainbow bunting and beautiful blue skies greeted thousands of festival goers at Kalamazoo Pride June 9, organized by the Kalamazoo Gay & Lesbian Resource Center. In addition to the vendors, food, music, fun and entertainment, the festival had an activist intensity as dozens of volunteers collected signatures in preparation for the elections this fall.
Zach Bauer, executive director of the KGLRC, reported that over 11,000 people attended the festival at Arcadia Park in downtown Kalamazoo, up from the 7,500 that attended last year. There were 180 vendors, 175 volunteers and the festival raised over $80,0000 for KGLRC.
“People walked away from Kalamazoo Pride 2012 with the understanding that engaging in this year’s election and supporting progressive candidates is more important than ever,” said Bauer. “The straight community can’t just show up to pride once a year and call themselves an ally, because while we were all living life, our state government was striping hard-working LGBTQ citizens of their rights. Pride 2012 was about having fun but it was also about bringing community together and moving towards equality together.”
Kellogg’s and PNC Bank were two large, corporate participants and sponsors. The Kellogg’s booth was busy all day handing out treats and engaging people to learn more about K-Pride, the LGBT employee group at Kellogg’s.
Two local activists were honored on stage. The Terry Kuseske Memorial Scholarship was awarded to Mariah Isaac, an annual award given to a graduating high school senior who plans to attend college in Michigan. Isaac is an active member of the GSA at her high school. Sara Stangl was also recognized for her work with LGBT students at Western Michigan University’s campus and their effort to have the Michigan Legislature issue a Pride Proclamation. When House Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Marshall) and Rep. Margaret O’Brien (R-Portage) and Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker (R-Kalamazoo County) would not sign her proclamation she led a petition effort with over 1,000 signatures.
The day started out with a politically themed Pride Brunch with speakers Emily Dievendorf, policy director of Equality Michigan, and Amy Hunter, chair of the Kalamazoo Alliance for Equality and president of the Equality Michigan Pride PAC. Attendees included Kalamazoo Mayor Bobby Hopewell, several city commissioners, and Trevor Thomas, openly gay Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, District 3.
“We need to drill down – past the symptoms and obvious signs of injustice to attack the problem at it’s roots,” said Hunter. “The unprecedented toxicity of the political, legislative and cultural climate we face today in Michigan requires that we draw upon the extraordinarily diverse strengths of a vast array of organizations, all of which have a stake in bringing about equality not just for for their constituents, but for all Michiganders – no matter who we are, or who we love.”
“Sometimes people need to know that they matter,” said Dievendorf. “That their families matter, that they can grow up knowing that the majority of the country – and our President – would like them to be happy and secure – to be able to dream about being in love and/or having a family, and YES – not being fired for being gay.”