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After Hamtramck Pride Flag Ban, Local Theater Shows LGBTQ+ Support Through Performance

Alphabet Fest offers a chance to celebrate queer joy and community

In early June, Hamtramck’s City Council banned the Pride Flag from being flown on public property, a move that has prompted a wave of backlash across the community, including a surge in social media posts aimed at the move and a stream of angry community members taking the mic to express their concern at Council meetings.

But Hamtramck’s Planet Ant theater is taking a unique, action-oriented approach with an LGBTQ-affirming event aimed at raising funds and giving local LGBTQ+ members and allies a chance to gather together for a night of positivity and supportive community. 

“I’m going to continue going to all public city meetings, fighting through those channels. I know people are planning protests and marches. Lots of businesses and individuals are hanging flags on their public property, which is great. But I think it’s also important to remember that it’s very important to celebrate,” Planet Ant Executive Director Darren Shelton told Pride Source. 

The result is the pay-what-you-can Alphabet Fest, set for July 28. The Fest comprises several shows that celebrate the LGBTQ+ community across three stages, creating a choose your own adventure style night celebrating queer life and identity. 

On the Ant Hall Stage, the theater will host a networking and social hour starting at 6 p.m. featuring political representatives and local organizations, followed by a queer- and ally-led improv show and a dance party hosted by local queer DJ Raedy Lex

On the Independent Comedy Club Stage, attendees can see the queer and allied standup comedy show, Friends of the Room, starting at 9 p.m. The Shit Show, an open mic comedy show, will follow. 

The Ghost Light Bar Stage will feature live music beginning at the bar at 9:30 p.m. including The DeCarlo Band and other local acts. 

Hamtramck’s decision to ban the Pride Flag has triggered a back and forth between the LGBTQ+ community and its allies and a group citing religious freedom in making the decision. Timothy Price, a Detroit resident and chair of Hamtramck’s Arts and Culture Commission who has been helping foster the LGBTQ+ community since the 1990s, is helping Planet Ant coordinate talent for the event in his private capacity. 

Price said that he is looking forward to “being a resource for the community within Hamtramck. Just so people know that there’s resources, support, that there’s a safe place to go, and we’re continuing. We’re not going to put our tail between our legs and fold. We always have to come up with a plan B and move forward.” 

Mayor Amer Ghalib has insisted to the press since the resolution’s passage that the decision to restrict flags on city property is not intended to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people. While declining an interview request, he did provide a statement which says in part “We did not ban the LGBTQ flag, we banned all religious, political, ethnic, racial or sexual orientation groups flags. That closes the doors in front of any other group that wants to fly their flags on government and public spaces. Our community is [diverse], many groups and many subgroups within each group, and when they heard that some flags might be flown, some started preparing to fly their own groups flags, and I didn’t want that scenario to happen, where you can see all kinds of unknown and maybe undesired flags flown in our city and public properties, so we decided to ban them all except government flags and [prisoners of war].”

Shelton, who disputed that claim, says that so many people contacted Planet Ant to find out what they can do to support the theater’s efforts to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community that they had to set up a dedicated email address: [email protected].

Meanwhile, Planet Ant held a fundraiser for Alphabet Fest that ended at the end of June and to improve security for LGBTQ+ people. However, the non-profit theater does take donations of any amount at any time at planetant.com/donate; those donations can go to an LGBTQ+ cause.

Alphabet Fest is set for July 28 starting at 6 p.m. at Planet Ant Theatre in Hamtramck (2320 Caniff St.). Learn more and find tickets at planetant.com.

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