Sunny weather accompanied Ann Arbor Pride 2019 on its four-day run starting Thursday, Aug. 1, through Sunday, Aug. 4. The hundreds of attendees across the weekend were able to enjoy the musical stylings of local fan-favorites like cover band Redi Choi and Alise King, taste some of Ann Arbor's food truck fare and even see national drag acts like headliner Aja. Jadein Black is a local queen herself and helped organize this year's entertainment. She said that she loves that Ann Arbor Pride can encourage education about the LGBTQ community.
"It brings everyone together, especially because of the farmer's market across the street. It educates people that are not exposed to LGBTQA events," Black said. "A lot of people are miseducated on those things. I do bingos around the whole state of Michigan, so I deal with a lot of straight-identifying people, and after my shows and stuff like that I try to bring that here for them to have a good experience and to be an ally for us, because we need more allies — especially with the government and what is going on right now. We need to stick together."
Included among the Pride's many events were dozens of vendors. One booth also dedicated to dispelling miseducation about the LGBTQ community was sponsored by the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services. Encouraging potential parents to "raise hope and foster dreams," the booth was dedicated to raising awareness about foster parent opportunities for LGBTQ parents. Sara Srygley is a foster parent pride trainer and recruiter. She said that the need in Michigan for foster parents is high.
"So, we're out here at Pride today to raise awareness about the need for homes in the state of Michigan and to answer questions [people] might have about what it takes to be a foster parent and what the process is like and how they can get started," she said, adding that many LGBTQ couples aren't aware that there are foster parent options for them. "We were out here last year and we had a lot of questions about LGBTQ families being able to foster and adopt. … A lot of times people come up to the table and they think that they're not allowed to foster and adopt because they've heard things in the media, and so we're doing a little bit of myth-busting as far as that LGBTQ families absolutely can foster and adopt."
And beyond focusing on parents-to-be, Ann Arbor Pride also drew the attention of the LGBTQ-allied group Free Mom Hugs. Moms Donna Day and Andrea Keown, along with others in the group, were present at Ann Arbor Pride, looking to spread a little compassion via hugs to anyone who wanted one. Mom Donna Day said her motivation to attend was to support her daughter and anyone feeling down. Another mom, Andrea Keown, agreed.
"I actually am out here to support everybody. I'm a new mom and I was reading about what this group does and it kind of resonated, because as a mother of a young daughter, I couldn't imagine my daughter not feeling comfortable enough to tell her who she is and not being there to support her," Keown said. "And the fact that there are people out here that don't have that support, it's heartbreaking."
However, it's that spirit of increased education and push for inclusivity that encouraged participants, like one attendee who preferred to stay anonymous, to "show my dad around and celebrate my bisexual identity." That positive association with the LGBTQ community also encouraged local businesses to show their support for everyone at Pride, like Executive Chef Louis Goral from the Blue LLama Jazz Club.
"We're a restaurant and jazz club in Ann Arbor, and it's a part of our mission to support cultural diversity in Ann Arbor and around the area, so we're very excited to be able to sponsor Ann Arbor Pride," Goral said. "And we're doing a Drag Queen Bingo where proceeds will help the Jim Toy Community Center and Ann Arbor Pride. We're really excited to be a part of it, to come and do some food for everybody and showcase what we do and support this great event."
That motivation was similar for Abby Sugar, who was there on behalf of her business.
"Our company is Play Out Underwear and we are based out of New York City actually, but I grew up in Ann Arbor, so we wanted to come and support the local Prides," Sugar said. "We make gender-equal underwear and so we don't use gender terminology on our website, we just make styles. So, half of our styles have flat-stich fronts, so boxer briefs, bikinis and thongs, and then half of our styles have pouch fronts if you want or need a pouch, same trunks, bikinis and thongs. But everything is available in all the colors, it's not pink is for girls, blue is for boys, we make high-art, fashionable underwear for everybody."
However, as inclusive as all the vendors in attendance were, it was perhaps Black who summed up the value of fostering a welcoming space like Ann Arbor Pride best.
"One thing that I do at all my shows, because I'm a fulltime teacher by day, I tell all my people that they have homework: tomorrow, please find three people that you don't usually talk to," Black said. "Smile at them and tell them, 'You have a great day,' because you might changing a life or saving a life."
Find out more about Ann Arbor Pride online at annarborpride.org.