Pride Fest activities begin Friday with Free Community BBQ; virtual activities continue through the weekend

By Tom Travis

A free community BBQ will be offered Friday, Oct. 9 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the parking lot behind Wellness Services, Inc. located at 311 E. Court St. as part of a weekend of activities for Flint Pride Fest 2020.

Flier provided by Wellness Services, Inc.


According to Rachel Strickland, prevention specialist at Wellness Services, the Flint Pride Fest was originally scheduled for June 20 and was postponed due to COVID-19.  Strickland said Flint Pride was rescheduled for August but the Flint Pride Planning Committee decided to go virtual with one in-person event. Last year Flint Pride Fest had over 3,000 attendees.

Flint Pride Fest will be a three-day event beginning this Friday

The three-day Flint Pride Fest event, hosted by Wellness Services, will begin this Friday, October 9, with an in-person cook out from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday’s in-person event will offer free testing, a free meal, a DJ, and vendors.

The vendors include Wellness Services (host of Flint Pride), Genesee Health Systems, 2020 Census, Ennis Center for Children, and Samarita. The vendors will be present during Friday’s cook out as well as the virtual event on Saturday via commercial and promos.

Saturday Oct. 10, Flint Pride will have a Facebook and Instagram Live event. The Social Media Live event will include drag performances and music from 1 to 6 p.m.

Sunday Oct. 11 is National Coming Out Day. There will be coming out stories and a memorial to honor those who paved the way and helped further LGBTQ rights in the community. Included in that memorial will be a special mention for specific Flint Pride community members including Deon Jackson, Vanessa Goldman, and Kevin Bacon.

Bacon, 25, was gruesomely murdered on Christmas Eve 2019 in Morrice, Michigan. Bacon was a member of the LGBTQ community and a student at UM-Flint. Bacon’s murder drew national attention. Mark Latunski, 50, was arrested soon after Bacon’s mutilated body was found. Latunski was recently ordered fit to stand trial in the murder charges.

Social Distancing and Sanitation procedures

Strickland said Friday’s cook out will be outdoors. Everyone will be required to wear a mask and follow six feet social distancing guidelines. Masks will be provided if needed.
Wellness Services has recently hosted other events with a similar set up and was able to adhere to the social distancing and mask requirements. Pride Fest attendees will be spaced out down the sidewalk while they wait to enter the event. After Friday’s cook out the remaining weekend events will all be virtual.
Strickland pointed out that Wellness Services works closely with people with compromised immune systems on a daily basis. Masks are required at all of our in-person events until further notice.
Wellness Services provide services for those living with HIV, dealing with drub abuse, and the LGBTQ community
Wellness Services, as described on their website, work with those living with HIV, those dealing with drub abuse and the LGBTQ community.  “Our goal is to help people live comfortably and learn more about HIV and AIDS. We do that by creating a space where people with HIV can share their worries without fear of stigma,” according to the website.
Testing services are now scheduled versus walk-ins
Strickland, a certified TTS (tobacco treatment specialist) and has worked at Wellness Services for four years, explains that Wellness Services was proactive in their response to the pandemic. Quickly after the Covid-19 pandemic began they closed their physical location and turned all of their programs into virtual access.
Strickland added, “The hardest barrier has been our community member’s access to virtual services, yet we continue to find ways to bridge the gaps. The service most affected during the shut-down was our HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), HCV (hepatitis C virus), and STI (sexually transmitted infections) testing services. We now have a scheduling system for testing versus a walk-in basis we used to be able to offer.”
“While our community members are very resilient people, we all need human connection at a minimum. Wellness Services continues to help people living with HIV as well as the community at large with support groups, events, and ongoing connections.”
Ongoing programs and events at Wellness Services
​Currently Wellness Services offers virtual support groups for clients who are living with HIV. Wellness Services also houses Safe Space Ally Center which is a space for LGBTQ individuals to receive support. Safe Space Ally Center offers support groups for the LGBTQ community, trans and nonbinary people, and asexual and grey-sexual people, according to Strickland.
Safe Space also hosts Current E-Vents weekly which is a space to vent about current events while also identifying action steps that folx can take, Strickland added. [“folx” is an umbrella term being used for people with a non-normative sexual orientation or identity].
Ongoing events at Wellness Services include two movie events weekly, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, featuring LGBTQ films, as well as a monthly game night. Wellness Services plans to continue the virtual groups into the future and does not anticipate in-person support until a treatment has been identified for the coronavirus. Wellness Services currently has twenty-four employees, according to Strickland.
Strickland pointed out that they work with too many people who are more susceptible.  “So we must think of the big picture and work together to bridge the gaps identified by the pandemic in order to best serve our community.” Strickland said.

Flint Pride’s sponsors include Wellness Services, Genesee Health Systems, Safe Space Ally Center, Blue Cross Complete, Unified HIV Health and Beyond, Genesee Community Health Center, Hamilton Community Health Network, Mott Community College, Flint Institute of Arts, Dort Federal Credit Union, Samarita, and Ennis Center for Children.

For more information on Wellness Services can be reached at 810-232-0888 or visit their website at More information and opportunities to connect with Flint Pride Fest can be done through their Facebook event page here.

EVM Managing Editor Tom Travis can be reached at

Author: Tom Travis

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