Michigan Pride Returns to the Streets of Old Town in June

BY EVE KUCHARSKI

This year's 28th annual Pride celebration in Lansing will return to the streets of Old Town June 16-17. The festival was originally held in June from 1990 until 2011.

"There are so many Pride festivals in Michigan now, which is a wonderful problem to have. We didn't want to jump in on any of the other Pride's going on in Michigan (originally)," said Michigan Pride Public Relations Director Leigha Faith when reflecting on the organization's decision to move the festival in 2012.

"There's only so many weekends in June, so as a means of allowing people to attend more Pride events, we wanted to have ours in August," she said.

The change of date was expected to increase attendance and give people an opportunity to celebrate locally then join together at the end of the summer for a bigger wrap-up. The move had other benefits as well. Students started to move to the area in preparation for college classes, and legislators are be back in session from their summer vacations.

"It was really no other decision except for public input," Faith said about their decision to move the festival back to June this year, but the dates were limited with festivals happening in Ferndale, Grand Rapids, Detroit, Traverse City, Kalamazoo and several other cities.

By popular demand it has to be the traditional month of June, though, after four years of gathering at the Capitol steps in August. Faith said she realizes the jam-packed Pride Month schedule and urges Pride attendees to make time to head to Lansing.

"Because we are seated in the state capital, we have the most influence to gain large masses and speak to the capital and rally for change and equality," Faith said. "And when we won marriage equality, it was huge for our community, but the work is not done."

One of the activists who is continuing this work is 14-year-old Shane Shananaquet who will speak this year.

"I want to speak about amplifying youth voices," Shananaquet said. "It's stressful and it's nerve wracking especially for people so young, but it's really necessary for children to get out and speak for themselves, and advocate for themselves and others."

Already, he has presented on behalf of The Human Rights Campaign, spoken in support of safe and supportive learning environments for LGBTQ students in front of the Michigan State Board of Education and been elected president of his high school's gay-straight alliance.

"I love the accepting environment and the community, and I'm excited to give my speech and let others know my story and some of my thoughts on the current topics," Shananaquet said. "I hope to empower others with my words."

Ultimately, fostering such an accepting environment is the goal of Pride said Faith.

"Most important, is to recognize that Pride is supposed to be a private, safe space for all. I say private because we don't want pictures taken and posted on social media, accidentally outing someone," Faith said. "We want it to be safe, we want to include the entire community. We want to include the lesbians, the gays, the bisexuals, the transgender people, the queer people and allies."

Michigan Pride kicks off on June 16 with the White Party at Sir Pizza in Old Town located at 201 E. Grand River Ave. This annual pre-party at 7 p.m. features performances by Alise King, Ty Teon and DJ Fudgie. Party-goers are encouraged to wear white as a way of expressing solidarity for the LGBTQ community. A $10 wristband allows access to all the bars located in Old Town for the evening.

On June 17, the parade stages in front of Adado Riverfront Park at 11:30 a.m. and steps off at 12 p.m. Members of the community are invited onto the Capitol steps following the parade for an afternoon rally. Festival celebrations will continue in Old Town throughout the day featuring a variety of entertainers like the LanSINGout Gay Men's Chorus, Starfarm Band, Ty Teon, Chelsea Delray, and Miss Amateur PowerDiva 2017 Emma Sapphire.

"There is so much to look forward to at this year's pride celebration," Faith said. "And we are grateful to all of the volunteers and organizations who dedicate countless hours to organize the events."

For more information and a full schedule of events, visit http://www.michiganpride.org/.
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