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June Pride’s month of celebrations is over and, though the festivities will surely continue this month with Hotter Than July and Windsor Pride, now is the time to look back and reflect on the Michigan pride celebrations across the state.
There were many commonalities between the various Prides this year, including increases in numbers, more activities and the general message that now is the time to rally the troops to begin fighting locally and federally for our rights.
The one trend that continues from the past few years, however, is that it seems like the statewide Michigan Pride is dwindling. This year, volunteers were hard to come by and the attendance was down to under 10,000 – most of them hailing from neighborhoods closer to Lansing.
Some are saying this is a “horrible sign of the apathy” of the LGBT community in Michigan; that we’ve all thrown in the towel after Proposal 2 and the subsequent state Supreme Court decision regarding health care benefits. There is much frustration over the lack of volunteers, too, as it has left the 10 or so people who put on Michigan Pride overworked and burnt out.
Although the smaller Michigan Pride is not necessarily something to celebrate, it may not be something to mourn, either.
West Michigan boasted an attendance of 4,000 for their 20th pride in Grand Rapids. This year marked the first that a separate organization was formed just to handle Pride events. Kalamazoo had its first pride ever, drawing almost 2,000 people to the Arcadia Festival site. Many attendants said it was a great opportunity to be visible, and the planners for next summer’s event anticipate double the attendance. Motor City Pride came out with an astounding estimated 50,000 people – two-and-a-half times larger than last year’s rainy turnout.
So though the statewide Michigan Pride is shrinking, local Prides are growing all across the state. That means more tightly-knit local gay communities and more local acceptance. And we all know that’s where change starts. It’s not on television. It’s not localized to Lansing. Pride is growing locally, and that’s something we can all be proud of.
But the success of this year’s Prides doesn’t mean that donating, volunteering and supporting LGBT events and organizations across the state is less important. This is a continuous effort and not one that can be accomplished simply by boogying on a Pride dance floor or watching a band play. The need for more volunteers and more donations is substantial – especially if we all expect our Pride events to grow larger each year.
No pride committee will contest the fact that they need more organization, more planning and more help. Whether it’s donating your time or your money, we can’t leave successful prides up to the few people who work their tails off each year to make sure that the thousands of people who attend Michigan pride events have a good time. Organization affiliation and sponsorship are important, but as with any accomplishment of the LGBT community, individual effort is key.
These events are for the whole community and the whole community should put them on. Whether it’s your local event or the statewide celebration, show that you care by doing your part to make sure Pride will continue to happen.