KALAMAZOO – Wet weather did little to dampen high spirits at a full weekend of events celebrating Kalamazoo Pride June 14 and 15.
“We have much to celebrate this pride season, because we are winning,” said Jon Hoadley to a gathering of about 150 people who attended the Kalamazoo Pride Brunch June 15.
The elegant brunch at The Wine Loft was the mid-point event in two full days of Pride in Kalamazoo. Festivities kicked off with a raucus evening of entertainers and the Miss(ter) Kalamazoo Pride Contest on the stage at the Arcadia Creek Festival Place. “That was the first drag show I ever saw,” said Gabrielle Boyer. “I loved it – it was amazing!”
Hoadley said that a record number of municipalities and townships now have local non-discrimination ordinances, and that the number continues to increase. “Ten years ago in Royal Oak an ordinance was defeated. This year, two openly gay city commissioners helped pass an ordinance,” said Hoadley. He encouraged people to donate to One Royal Oak, the campaign to defend the new ordinance that will be on the ballot this November.
Kevin Jennings, executive director of The Arcus Foundation, drew a longer arc of progress in his keynote address at the brunch. A former high school history teacher and founder of GLSEN, the national group for LGBT teachers and their allies, Jennings went all the way back to 1953 when Frank Kameny protested in front of the White House. He also paid homage to Gerry Crane, the Byron Center music teacher who was fired for being gay in 1996, and who soon thereafter died of a stress induced heart attack. “Gerry Crane was a great teacher, and not just in the classroom. I came to his funeral and saw his students sobbing. They are in their 30s now, and they are changed forever by Gerry Crane. We owe him a great debt,” said Jennings.
The main festival kicked off that afternoon in Arcadia Creek Festival Park with vendors, food service, drinks, organizations, lots of dogs and an array of rainbow decorations. Attendance was down from the prior year, in large part due to a persistent rain. But those who ventured out were cheered by the friendly volunteers and vendors. The presenting sponsor, Bells’ Brewing, kept the crowd lubricated with samples of their various beverages. Kellogg’s had a large display with many of the K Pride & Allies members on hand to distribute protein bars and treats. PNC Bank also had a big display as a sponsor and supporter of the weekend events.
Politicians and candidates were on hand gathering support for their upcoming campaigns. Tracy Hall, candidate for Kalamazoo city commission, is a history teacher at Western Michigan University and Kalamazoo Community College. If elected, she would be the first openly lesbian person on the commission. Aaryn Richard has announced he is running in 2014 for state representative in the Owosso area. Richard, who works in the benefits eligibility department of the State of Michigan, said, “I see every day how our policies just don’t work for ordinary people in Michgain. I want to change that.” Democrat Mark Totten, a Kalamazoo area resident and Michigan State University law professor, is planning a 2014 run for attorney general against incumbent Republican Bill Schuette. “The AG position is probably the most important for civil rights issues, and we need someone who will defend the LGBT community – not attack it,” said Totten.