By Katelyn Jacobson
A simple black-and-white photo can’t really do the Kresge Pride Festival and Parade justice, and only a rainbow could encompass the diversity of the 2008 campus-wide procession.
Watched over by a logo of last year’s colorful paint-by-numbers giraffe, vivid streamers and posters adorned walls and tents in anticipation of the march’s climactic conclusion at Kresge’s Lower Street quad. By the time the cheering mass wound its way to the last stop, the Pride Festival was in full swing, and participants found themselves circled by a variety of amusements including a cotton candy machine, tie-dye, barbecue, popcorn, and a bounce house.
Following in the wake of the recent California Supreme Court decision to recognize same-sex marriages, this year’s keynote speakers worked to incorporate themes of marriage and inclusion into the celebratory event.
“The decision was great. And I tell you I partied that night, and I partied some more, and I don’t want to give a cold shower but I don’t want us to think the battle is over. There’s still an incredible amount of work to do,” said Reverend Deborah L. Johnson, president and founder of both the Motivational Institute and Inner Light Ministries.
For about 20 minutes her bold voice rang through Kresge College, echoing around the courtyard and reverberating around the streamer-laden tables and tents.
Despite the latest achievements in the area of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender (GLBT) rights, Johnson was concerned about the change of focus taking place in the movement, and called for a return to liberation and a radical break from a system based on constructs and inequality.
“We don’t need to join something that we already know is broken in so many places,” Johnson said. “We need to bring something new to the table, and transform not only our own relationships, but the whole institution of marriage itself. The institution of marriage does not promote equality anywhere on the planet.”
Johnson discouraged an equality tailored specifically for the GLBT movement, and said the main question should be how universal issues are dealt with in different communities. In Johnson’s eyes, the push for gay rights has become too exclusive, and she stated that it is never enough to fight for the issues of one single group.
“I have been an activist all my life, and there are not gay issues, there are issues and the way in which these issues impact different people,” Johnson said. “You have issues like health, like immigration, like equal access, like political participation, like recognition, like visibility, like respect. Those are basic issues. There’s nothing gay about these issues. And if you are too busy and have a narrow-minded focus, only looking to see how those issues impact a narrowly defined cultural demographic, you’re going to miss the whole thing.”
Back on the other side of campus, a resident assistant who wished to remain anonymous was having similar thoughts, but felt that the extreme visibility of a parade could reflect unfavorably on the mission for equality.
“You can ask to be tolerated, but demanding full acceptance by saying ‘we’re just like you’ and then having parades differentiating you from everyone else seems like it could be counterproductive,” she told City on a Hill Press after the march had snaked through the Cowell apartments.
She shared her feelings about the events showcasing what is for her, a very personal aspect of life, though still emphasizing support for the accomplishments and ideals of the movement.
“I just don’t want people to go up to me and expect me to participate in gay pride parades and be all about my sexuality when that’s a small part of who I am,” she said. “And I don’t like when people believe all gay people think their sexuality is the most important part of them.”
Pride organizers Nicolas Archer and Lauren Swanson cited the visibility gained by the march and festival as the number-one goal of the event, in order to show queer and questioning people that they are part of a community, and to let everyone know that there are loving and supportive people out there.
“It’s a long march, but you know, it’s having people wake up Saturday morning to a gay pride march when they themselves would never have gone down to it,” Archer said. “We’re bringing the message home, and showing that this campus is a campus about everybody’s issues.”