Harrisville, Michigan will be the latest city to celebrate LGBT pride on Aug. 17 beginning at 11 a.m., with the upcoming Equalityfest, taking place on the grounds of the Harrisville Holistic Center on Hwy. 23 near the junction of Hwy. 72.
The event is a mix of community togetherness, activism and education bringing in some big names in the equal rights movement. The keynote speaker is Dr. Rev. Mel White, a man who went from working for Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robinson, to an openly gay activist involved in various projects including the Soulforce bus tour which takes gay youth to conservative college campuses to generate conversations.
State Sen. Rebekah Warren from Ann Arbor, who is a strong proponent of LGBT rights in Lansing, will be the primary facilitator for the marriage equality workshop at the event. She will provide the inside story of the legislative hurdles facing the LGBT community.
There will also be a presentation on being gay in rural Michigan, focusing on the issues LGBT people face when they aren’t in a supportive urban environment. And of course there will be music, vendors, food and other activities to enjoy.
About a dozen local businesses have signed up as sponsors for the event, including Ben Franklin Craft Store, Captain Pete’s Mini Golf, 89.7 FM, and Modern Craft Winery.
Harrisville Holistic Center, where the event will take place, provides resources and community for those from all faiths. Rev. Paul Peterson runs the center and led the way in creating Equalityfest. He has been an advocate for the LGBT community and progressive movements for about 25 years. As a Presbyterian Minister he worked in several places throughout the U.S. and even in Ghana, West Africa before moving back to Michigan to work as a community organizer for That All May Freely Serve (TAMFS), and eventually settling in Northern Michigan to be close to his parents. Peterson started the Harrisville Holistic Center “as a place for progressive thinkers to gather and organize.”
Progressives who meet through the center have advocated for a number of issues, including protecting medical marijuana patients from police and starting a local alternative newspaper called The Alcona Citizen that covers many issues including improprieties of local elected officials and the risks of fracking.
Advocating for LGBT equality is a natural fit and the folks at the center hope to unite LGBT people and allies in northern Michigan.
“There’s a lack of support groups for LGBT people. There are a few gay-friendly bars, but those don’t provide the support for the challenges facing the LGBT community on a daily basis. We are promoting the holistic center as a safe and welcoming space and will be developing programs that focus on LGBT issues. Already, just through organizing the Equalityfest, we have found people becoming more open and outspoken about marriage equality,” said Peterson.
“The southern half of Michigan has many Pridefests and similar events. Rainbow flags are few and far between in northern Michigan. It is important that LGBT people from all across the state join us to help empower and give voice to the LGBT community of rural Michigan. And beyond that, it’s an opportunity for a vacation day in the picturesque town of Harrisville on the beautiful shores of Lake Huron. Who says justice can’t be fun?
“In terms of attendance, we have a dream that it will be another Woodstock with traffic backed up trying to get into Harrisville. But in the real world, if the weather is good, we expect between 250 and 500 people,” he said.
To learn more about the Harrisville Holistic Center and Harrisville Equalityfest, check out their website at http://www.harrisvilleholistic.org.