MARCH of PRIDE

Gay community plans celebratory weekend

by Sharon Wootton
For the Olympian

Capital City Pride festivities this weekend in Olympia have a new look, or at least a new sound, for Saturday afternoon’s post-parade festival. The grooves rising out of rhythm and blues from Swamp Mama Johnson are gone. Taking the stage will be punk-rock bands, spoken-word artists and an acoustic guitarist.

The performers represent the newest generation of South Sound’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities, a generation that does not usually participate in the annual celebration, said Emily Stern, who organized the entertainment (and is known in the community as “Spider”).

“I wanted to do an intentional outreach to as many different communities as possible, to do what I could to create a situation where many people could be heard and acknowledged,” Stern said.

Capital City Pride has organized the annual Pride Day events since the Olympia Gay Pride Parade in 1991. The parade is also a celebration of the June 1969 Stonewall Inn riots, observed as the start of the gay-rights movement when customers of a New York City bar fought back against a police raid.

Stonewall has become an icon in the gay community of making a stand against harassment and inequality. The parade is “a reminder of who we are as a people, a reminder to be happy with it,” said co-chair JayMichael Becker. “It’s a celebration of unity between gay people.”

The weekend is a chance for the Olympia-area gay community to gather, do some networking, share food, celebrate and be visible, he said.

“This year there will more people in general, a couple floats, we might have horses and a carriage … it will just be more entertaining this year,” Becker said.

Stern has also helped create a panel Friday night.

“We’ll have activists that span the years. There’s much to be discussed among generations in the queer, gay and lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities. “The only way to get from A to B is to go through this honorable process (of talking to each other) with much goodness and heart-felt feelings and people’s integrity intact.”

The first-ever Queer March starts at 5:30 p.m. Friday from Heritage Park.

“Some people don’t feel comfortable with mainstream gay culture for various reasons,” Stern said. “Many people feel they’re in conflict with the gay and lesbian mainstream culture whether politically (or on) many issues like class and race.

“I’m not without my issues, but I’m also a fan of everyone being represented. What is pride? What are you celebrating? For me, that is the big question. If you’re not really acknowledging our community, all the communities, what’s so celebratory about it?”

Sharon Wootton can be reached at 360-468-3964 or www.songandword.com.

Capital City Pride Weekend

* What: Olympia’s 13th annual parade and party hosted by and for the area’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community as well as its supporters.

* When: Saturday (with additional events Friday and Sunday).

* Where: The parade starts at noon Saturday (those participating are asked to arrive at 11 a.m.) on the Capitol Campus and ends at Sylvester Park in downtown Olympia, where additional events will take place.

* Admission: Free.

* For information: See www.rainbowcenteroly.org.

Events

* Queer March: 5:30 p.m. Friday, from Heritage Park through downtown to The Olympia Center, 222 Columbia St. N.W.

* Potluck and panel discussion: 6:30-9 p.m. Friday, The Olympia Center. The topic: “What are we proud of? An intergenerational panel on the history of local activism.”

* Parade: Noon Saturday, followed by a rally and celebration at Sylvester Park in downtown Olympia (until 5 p.m.). Activities include a children’s area, beer garden, music and spoken-word performers.

* “Dog’s Day Out”: Noon-4 p.m. Sunday, LBA Park, Olympia. Hosted by Stonewall Youth, this family event includes a dog talent show and pageant, tips on pet nutrition and grooming and other dog-centric activities.

Donations will be accepted to benefit Stonewall Youth. For more information, call 360-705-2738