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Equality Michigan is a statewide political advocacy organization that works to ensure LGBTQ Michiganders not only achieve equality in all aspects of life but have the resources they need if they fall victim to discrimination. Partnering their sister organization, Equality Michigan Action Network with Battle Creek Pride — now gearing up for its fourth consecutive festival this July — they’ve set up a Tuesday, March 26, fundraiser called Grassroots for Good. Its goal is to ensure that the organizations’ joint message of LGBTQ equality makes it across the state, not only concentrated in the larger cities across Michigan.
“Battle Creek Pride had its first pride a couple of years ago which was huge for that town and I wanted to put them on the map in a greater light,” said Cheryl Gilliam, vice chair of the EQMI C4 Board of Directors. “I hope to broaden this into a lot of small towns in mid-Michigan. We do a lot of stuff in Detroit … we do a lot of things in the Ann Arbor area, we do work up in Grand Rapids and where I work, here in Lansing, but why not take the movement that is Grassroots for Good and pepper it around to other communities?”
The fundraiser, held at Battle Creek Pride’s headquarters at the First Congregational Church on 145 Capital Ave. NE in Battle Creek, will serve to educate locals about EQMI’s work, the importance of increased LGBTQ visibility across the state and the value of changing legislation.
“Your financial support ensures we have what we need to best support the victims of injustice. Your contributions also help us to work with and better train the systems and institutions that can help prevent LGBTQ/SGL/HIV+ bias, discrimination, harassment or violence from happening or provide justice for the victim when it happens,” wrote event organizers.
At the event, Gilliam said there will be a diverse group of speakers who will outline the goals of each organization they represent and their intended collaborations. They include Deana Spencer, president of Battle Creek Pride; Denise Jones, chair of the Battle Creek Chamber of Commerce Board; Erin Knott, interim executive director of Equality Michigan; Jim Haadsma, Michigan state representative of the 62nd District and Battle Creek Pride board member; and more.
“We chose what I hope is a diverse is a group. We have a senior in Lansing High School that runs the Gay-Straight Alliance speaking, all the way up to the local state Rep. who will be speaking,” Gilliam said. “We talked about speakers and we agreed we wanted to use local speakers, we didn’t want to bring in a big name from Lansing or from Detroit, we wanted to highlight the talent and the community of Battle Creek.”
Gilliam added that beyond the organizations’ goals for 2019, the event will provide a networking opportunity as well as snacks and light refreshments. Tickets start at $50 but range in pricing to allow for anyone interested to attend.
“I like the idea that comes from back when I worked on the Obama campaign, that every $20 helps. At this particular fundraiser, if you’re in high school, you get in free, just bring your ID. I want to generate the positive attitude of the youth to come here and electrify us all. I don’t want money to be a barrier to you,” Gilliam said. “[There is also a] college reduced rate.”
When asked what she was most excited about regarding the event, Gilliam cited the partnerships.
“I believe that Equality Michigan is a leader in this state but we do have other organizations that represent the LGBTQ community and I believe that all of us can work together as a family and bring the message home,” she said. “I’m excited that with these small events, we can go across the state and make them happen. Whether we raise a couple of thousand dollars, the dollar amount isn’t as important as bringing out the message.”
Visit equalitymi.org to learn more about the organization and future fundraising events.