BY HEATHER AYMER
Check out Motor City Pride captured on camera here.
The almost 90-degree weather didn’t stop what turned out to be a record number of people from gathering last weekend for Motor City Pride at Hart Plaza in downtown Detroit. At least 35,000 people came out to show their support for the LGBTQ community, according to Dave Wait, chairperson for the festival.
“There were twice as many people this year than there were in the past,” said Wait, noting that people celebrate Pride for many different reasons – to be with friends, to engage politically, or to enjoy various entertainers.
The festival featured five stages of entertainment from musical acts, spoken words and drag shows. In addition, more than 130 sponsors, vendors and non-profit organizations were in attendance.
“It always amazes me how many people come out to participate, not just from the LGBTQ community, but allies and entire families,” he said. “It was relaxing for some people who just hung out, sat on the grass and observed the river.”
The theme, “Stronger Together,” was apparent, specifically during the Saturday evening vigil where members of the community took a moment to remember not just the LGBTQ lives lost to tragic violence, but the activism of their trans sisters of color, among others, who began the rallies and riots, marches and parades that today LGBTQ people honor.
During a vigil at Motor City Pride in Hart Plaza on June 10, members of the community take a moment to reflect upon the Pulse massacre in Orlando. BTL Photo: Alex Godin
On Sunday, the parade at Griswold Street and Jefferson Avenue began the festival, followed by the equality rally at Hart Plaza. The parade staging area was full of costumed, vibrant, speckled persons quietly assembling. There were families preparing, photo opportunities taken, meet and greets with glitter, sparkles and the signing of petitions.
Swelling the crowd were Amnesty International, Planned Parenthood, and Unite Here Local 24. The organizations represented the fight for safe spaces and continued work toward parity. Others marched raising awareness of the unnecessary practice of genital mutilation and lack of gender choice. LGBTQ Detroit, the organizers of Hotter Than July, marched representing diversity and inclusion. The collection of not-for-profit hero organizations showed their viability, commitment and partnership to a community in need.
Onlookers watched, they shouted and they cheered as marchers from social clubs, kink circles, motorcycle guilds and performance groups passed by. These groups and clubs have been safe harbor for the LGBTQ community for decades, often the only affirming safe space available. These groups are the only families that many have ever known. The Michigan Rocky Horror Preservation Society has been supportive of the LGBTQ community for more than 40 years.
And, too, did the Christians march. Parishes and congregants, such as Christ the King Catholic Church in Detroit were present to affirm their commitment to inclusion and unconditional love. With heady skepticism abounding, they came, into a world of persons often hurt and humiliated by hatefully interpreted religious doctrine. They came to wash such humiliation away, and, with courage, show support instead.
BTL Photo: Andrew Potter
A new rainbow-wrapped 2017 Fiat 124 Spider, the brand’s all-new roadster, served as grand marshal vehicle for this year’s parade.
“We are pleased to once again have a leading role supporting Motor City Pride, the largest LGBT event in the state of Michigan,” said Bob Broderdorf, Director – Passenger Car Brand Sales and Network Operations, FCA US LLC. “Motor City Pride is among the many ways FCA US and FIAT Brand celebrate our inclusive work culture in which all members of our team are respected and fully engaged developing vehicles that resonate with diverse buyers and communities.”
The corporate world led by inclusive example this year. Employees from Delta Air Lines, Google, Amazon, Mercedes-Benz, Starbucks, General Motors and Lyft marched, to name a few. TD Ameritrade passed out whistles, and as they did, the echo of twitters vibrated in a safe space cacophony of solidarity. Chipotle dotted the landscape with rainbow flag wristbands and many wore Pride flags as superhero capes. All businesses seemed to voice by their presence the theme of safe space for the LGBTQ community.
BTL Photo: Heather Aymer
Diane Gomez, marcher and general manager of Chipotle summed it up. “We support LGBTQ people. We offer a great and safe work environment. Anybody can be who they want to be,” she said.
When asked about the corporatization of Pride, Wait spoke to the importance of having community partners, which helps provide a large and varied festival that meets the interests and needs of a diverse community. Involving corporate America gives many businesses the opportunity to reach potential LGBTQ customers and employees. Plus, Pride festivals are not cheap.
“Every Pride is different. We aren’t charging the $35-50 that some festivals charge. We wish we didn’t have to charge $5,” said Wait. “It’s hard to include the many things, like hiring security, that we do without sponsorship.”
BTL Photo: Andrew Potter
BTL Photo: Andrew Potter
He and his team will debrief, crunch numbers and begin to address some of the challenges faced in addition to new ideas for the festival moving forward.
“We want it to be all-encompassing, bigger, better and hope to provide more for individuals who attend Pride each year,” said Wait, who will start planning for Motor City Pride 2018 in July next year. First, he said, “we’ll take some time to make sure bills are paid and breathe.”
BTL Senior News Editor Kate Opalewski contributed to this report.