By Jeffery L. Carey Jr.
Rainbows on everything from drag queens to a U.S. Congresssman were the motif of the day Saturday at the Ninth Annual Pride Festival in downtown Flint. Hosted by the Flint Pride Society and Wellness Services of Flint, the event ran from 2 to 8 p.m. along Flint’s Riverbank Park.
Tom Moore, public relations representative with Wellness, said more than 3,000 people gathered for the celebration. “At around 4:45 p.m. we ran out of our 2500 rainbow heart stickers which we were using to count attendance. Folks kept coming and stayed until well after 8 p.m,” he said.
“We have a lot of great entertainers from the area that like to showcase their talent,” he added. All afternoon, vibrantly dressed people gathered around the stage of the park. Among those featured were DJ Matt Holiday, Khaos and Chi-Chi Rodriguez who welcomed Congressman Dan Kildee to the event as a guest speaker.
“Happy Pride Month,” U.S. Congressman Dan Kildee exclaimed as he greeted the audience. “We have had four decades of progress toward equality and one of the things we like to do when we get together is think about the progress we have made towards equality and celebrate that and celebrate our diversity and celebrate all of this beauty that is right in front of me.”
Among other entertainments onstage were drag revues featuring Astara Love, Carmen Cruz, Raven Turner, Kayla Stratus, Monica Devereaux, Chi-Chi Rodriguez, Perry Dox, Diana Paradise, King Q, and Marz. Also highlighted were Furillo Star, Tommy Gunnz, First Responders, Aleah Glory, J-Jacobee, and Deriko with a Mini Ball containing a Runway event, Flint’s Got Talent, Voguing and a Best Dressed in rainbow colors contest.
“I tell people it’s a great day,” Moore said, “whether you’re an ally or a member of the community to come and just have fun, meet people, and watch a lot of great entertainment, have some great food, get some fun swag, and just show those pride colors.”
Kildee reminded the crowd that we still live in a time where “we have to fight and work for a more equal and beautiful society.” He warned against “acts of validation” that make discrimination more likely in terms of protections being “dialed back” for the LGBT community.
“Pride events,” as stated on the Flint Pride Facebook page, “are a positive stance against discrimination and violence toward the LGBTQ+ Community!
“The intent of this event is to celebrate diversity in our city!! Affirm gay and transgender individuals, increase visibility and to build a sense of community,” the website declared.
Moore explained that nine years ago a group from Wellness Services got together and talked about how to create an event here in Flint to focus on providing HIV testing. He also described how these services focused on giving out information about organizations that can help people in diverse communities, especially those of color, to give them the services they need.
Wellness Services is located in downtown Flint at 311 E. Court Street. “It’s a safe space where individuals and couples can get tested for HIV and STIs and get free condoms and lube. Members of the LGBT community can drop-in and hang out, attend educational workshops, help plan and attend events, use a computer or watch some television. We are here to be a space that you can be yourself without concerns.”
Attending the event with a group of her friends was 14-year-old LakeVille student, Cathryn-Grace Maclachlan. Asked what her favorite part of Pride was she said, “the drag queens.”
Maclachlan said this was the first year she had ever attended the Pride event and she plans on going again next year.
“I didn’t really learn anything,” Maclachlan said of the festival, “but just being there opened my mind to a lot of things I guess and the atmosphere was really happy and fun and I forgot about all of the bad stuff in my life.”
EVM Staff Writer Jeffery L. Carey, Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.