Fulfilling a Need
Detroit, Ann Arbor and Ferndale have long-held Pride festivals. Marquette, Grosse Pointe and Ypsilanti celebrate the LGBTQ community each summer, too. And for the first time this June, Royal Oak and Cadillac held their own events. But nowhere in Michigan's third-most-populous county has there ever been a large-scale, communitywide Pride. Phil Gilchrist didn't just recognize the need for one, he chose to do something about it.
"What I've come to understand is that there is a gay community here, but there's not a real place and time for us to be able to coalesce or for allies and supportive people and organizations in this area to really show that in a particular way or place or time," said Gilchrist, whose day job is executive director of the Anton Art Center in Mt. Clemens.
"This whole idea sort of started as a conversation with a couple of friends of mine, and with that understanding that this community is fairly disconnected and not very visible," Gilchrist said. Thus, he decided to launch what he is calling a "Pride initiative" in Macomb County.
With the goal of developing it into an annual event, Gilchrist and his team are planning a parade and resource fair for the inaugural year.
"Given that it's our first time around, we want to make sure it's something we'll be able to keep manageable in terms of size and planning efforts," Gilchrist said. "There's currently maybe a dozen people that are working with me on a planning committee for the event and we're focusing on bringing this to downtown Mt. Clemens. That's the county seat and my own hometown."
Gilchrist's vision is first, for the parade to be a platform for community members to participate in the event. Then, the resource fair will provide an opportunity where organizations can highlight their support and share resources with the LGBTQ community.
New Year's Eve FUNdraiser
To offset some of the costs the parade and fair will incur, a companion fundraiser, "DRAG-ing in the New Year," will be held at the Emerald Theatre on New Year's Eve. Featuring professional drag performers and produced by Kourtney Breeze, the show will also showcase Bentley James, Perry Dox, Kendyll Harding and Malibu. DJ Marquis will be there later in the evening as well.
A wedding giveaway is slated to be part of the fun at the New Year's Eve festivities in which the winning couple will receive a wedding package from the Emerald Theatre with Feb. 14 reserved as the big day. (The entry deadline for the giveaway will have passed by the time of this printing.)
With regard to some of the smaller Pride celebrations that have sprung up in recent years, Gilchrist said he certainly sees value in those efforts. "I think it's really important," Gilchrist said. "In my mind, there's plenty of room for communities to hold these types of events. I mean, it shows they're supportive of the people that are living there and in the area. The more of these kinds of events that you can find around, I think, the more welcoming those areas will be to the LGBTQ community."
In a press release, Mt. Clemens Mayor Laura Kropp stated that the city strives to be inclusive and is proud of its diversity.
"Our city wants to be a leader in celebrating Pride this upcoming June in Mt. Clemens, a first for Macomb County," she said.
Gilchrist said he's also approached the mayor about introducing a Pride Month resolution as well as an inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance for the city, which Kropp said she would discuss with the city commission.
It's About Time
Although Gilchrist only recently announced Macomb County Pride in a big way, he said the response has already been very positive.
"Everybody has been excited to hear that the events are being planned and I've heard a lot of comments [like], 'It's about time.' I've been able to connect with a number of stakeholders in the area who are exceptionally supportive and really looking forward to being involved in this really significant new event here."
Date and location to be determined. Follow: facebook.com/macombcountypride/. For information about the events, including for volunteers, donations and sponsorships, visit macombcountypride.com or email [email protected]. Tickets for "DRAG-ing in the New Year" can be purchased at TheEmeraldTheatre.com. 18 and over only. General admission: $69, VIP admission: $99. Doors open at 8 p.m. Full details can be found at gaybe.am/45.