JAMESTOWN – What started as a simple question from a Jamestown resident, has turned into a first of its kind event celebrating the LGBTQI+ community, that’s slated to take place this weekend.
Jamestown Pride Festival Coordinator Sheridan Smith says the festival’s origin dates back to nearly two years ago, when he noticed the area was missing something.
“There have been picnics in the past, and other various events, but not a big outward focused pride festival,” explained Smith. “So, I got a bunch of people together, and we asked the question.”
That’s when the pride steering committee was formed, stitching together ideas on how to host the area’s first ever pride fest.
“We started planning, everything was coming together, and then the world shut down,” said Smith.
Much of the pre-pandemic work, Smith says, will be included in Saturday’s events which kicks off with a 9:30 a.m. flag raising at city hall.
“This will commemorate the anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Florida,” explained Smith. “We’re going to remember that, we are going to remember what the struggle of pride was and still is.”
From there, the festival will get underway in the middle of downtown at the Jamestown Public Market along Third Street and Wintergarden Plaza.
During that time those in the LGBTQI+ community will be working together to help foster the next generation of allies, something Smith says is an important element of the ‘coming out’ process.
“There are still families that reject people, I have some family of choice, there are people that will lose everything when they come out, and everyone when they come out,” said Smith. “But more often now, you don’t have to lose people, you just gain this community, and the people that you love, and have loved you before, just become allies.”
As for what makes a good ally, Smith says.
“Part of it is as simple as listening, but part of it is also speaking up when those of us who are tired of speaking up, can’t anymore,” said Smith. “There are people who are in the disability community, there are people who are in the black community, and they don’t have endless amounts of energy to explain who they are, what they need, or defend who they are.”
That’s where he says an ally comes in, to simply support their family, friends or in some cases a complete stranger; saying the focus of socialization throughout the day will address fostering allyship.
“I’ve been contacted by a number of parents who are trying to understand their children’s struggle with gender expression, they don’t have the language for it, they don’t have the context for it, and they want to be able to have these discussions in an informed way, they want to be able to support their children in what can be a very difficult process,” furthered Smith. “They are going to be there (at the festival) with their children, learning this together.”
The evening caps off with a drag performance from Pandora Boxx from RuPaul’s Drag Race at the Windergarden Plaza.
“To remind us that we have this vibrant community with families, and love, and creativity, and fun, to remind us that we allies, and places of worship, or businesses in the area who are open to the community, who accepting of the community, is very important so we can navigate the world without fear.”
To learn more about the festival, and download the poster with a rundown of the day’s activities, check out Jamestown Pride on Facebook.