By Dawn Wolfe Gutterman
LANSING – Last Saturday, Michigan Pride was one of the hottest ever – and not just the temperature. Roughly 15,000 people participated in the weekend’s events, according to Michigan Pride secretary Sarah Mieras.
Pride Co-Chair Dawn Broderick said that despite the heat, “It was one of the largest marches to the Capitol that I have ever seen, and I have been doing this work for a decade.”
Broderick wasn’t alone in her enthusiasm for the march.
“On Sunday, at the hotel someone came up to me and told me that it was her first event and she had goose bumps from the tip of her toes to the top of her head when she stepped up to the Capitol and heard Michelle Brown speak.”
Brown, who wears many hats, served on the board of the Coalition for a Fair Michigan. She rallied those gathered in asking for a recommitment to their involvement in the LGBT community.
“If you are serious about equality, if you are serious about ending discrimination, if you are serious about defeating homophobia Ð then it’s time for each of us to step up to the plate,” Brown told the crowd. “Enjoy today’s pride celebration. Today is our day. And be out and be proud every day, for all our tomorrows.”
Brown encouraged everyone gathered to support LGBT organizations across the state, reminding people that the LGBT community is being outspent and outmanned daily.
Brown was joined in speaking at the rally by State Representative Chris Kolb, former State Representative Lynne Martinez and Crystal Witt, victim advocate for the Triangle Foundation.
Kolb and Martinez weren’t the only equality-minded politicians present at Pride. Though he wasn’t a scheduled speaker, state Senator Virg Bernerno, who serves Ingham county, came out for roughly two and a half hours in the heat to greet participants and welcome them to Pride, according to Pride volunteer Barry Henderson.
And, despite – or perhaps because of – the passage of the anti-family Proposal 2 in Nov. 2004, over 150 couples participated in the Capitol Commitment Ceremony after the march and rally.
“It was the largest ceremony Michigan Pride has hosted,” Mieras said.
The festival was hot financially as well.
“This will be the fourth year in a row that Michigan Pride, an all-volunteer non-profit group, has emerged from the event in the black,” Mieras said.
In addition to the searing weather, the heated dedication of several volunteers and performers was also a surprise.
One volunteer, Paula Valencia from Grand Rapids, worked from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the festival gate, according to Mieras.
“Michigan Pride credits our higher than average donations at the gate to Paula’s hard work,” Mieras said. In addition, two unnamed EMTs from Western Michigan volunteered throughout the day to help those suffering from heat-related issues and to attend to first-aid needs.
But it was comedian Mimi Gonzalez who really saved the day. On June 23, Pride organizers learned the Rene Hicks, who was scheduled to headline the comedy show on June 24, would be unable to make it.
“It was a miracle that we had run into a comedian who had performed with us in 1999 and 2000, Mimi Gonzalez,” said Mieras. Gonzales, a Michigan native, was home visiting family prior to a planned June 28 trip to Baghdad to entertain U.S. troops.
“We were able to catch her Thursday afternoon as she left Michigan for her home in New York. She turned around and checked into the Radisson to save the day,” Mieras said.
Another surprise was that the Radisson Lansing, Pride’s host hotel, was totally booked a week before the event, something that hasn’t happened in the past.
Asked why this year’s Pride was such a huge success, Broderick credited Proposal 2.
“I feel Proposal 2 made a big difference in our attendance this year,” she said. “I feel our community has come to the abrupt realization that our civil rights as citizens are in danger, and that we must pull together.”