OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — Tuesday the Oklahoma City Pride Alliance held a kick-off ceremony, the first of a month of events to celebrate Pride Month in the metro.
And, the Mayor of Oklahoma City, David Holt, issued a proclamation declaring June to be “Pride Month,” only the second declaration of Pride Month and third of any declaration in the city’s history.
“We have so much to truly be proud about because of the progress we have made in this city,” said J.D. Baker, special assistant to the Mayor who came to read the proclamation.
For decades, Pride Week and the Pride Parade were celebrated among the metro’s 2SLGBTQ+ community centered on a blocks-long strip near N.W. 39th Street and Pennsylvania Ave with club owners and merchants being the catalyst.
But, in 2019 a new step forward was achieved for the community when Mayor David Holt became the first mayor of Oklahoma City to to make an official proclamation of Pride Week and walk in the Pride Parade along with several of the City Council members.
The 2020 pandemic yielded a virtual set of programs but the Pride Parade and official in-person events were cancelled.
And, so, this first event in person since 2019 seemed to be a real celebration.
The annual Rainbow Award recipients are:
- Hot Pink – Sex/Liberation – Adele Wolf for starting the Oklahoma Burlesque Festival and showing extreme liberation and body positivity through burlesque
- Red – Life – Cynthia Garcia for tireless work through United We Dream for undocumented community members
- Orange – Healing – The Center at UCO for research, grant funding, and advocacy for issues regarding women, gender, and sexuality
- Yellow – Sunlight/visibility – Tyreke Baker, The Black Times for showing what activism through journalism looks like
- Green – Nature/environmentalism/conservation – Katrina Ward for starting the 23rd Street Community Garden last year
- Turquoise – Magic/Art – Drag/Creatives/Artists – Am’re Ford for Arts in Action and Fire in Little Africa
- Indigo – Serenity – Dr. Kate Arnold and Phil Burke at Variety Care for work to build out real safety for queer people and provide gender-affirming health resources
- Violet – Spirit – Adriana Laws, Collegiate Freedom and Justice Society for bringing the true meaning of Pride to every protest and action last summer
Hannah Royce, President of the Oklahoma City Pride Alliance, kicked off the event.
“Happy Pride Month!” said Royce to cheers and applause. “You guys look so friggin beautiful out there. Oh my goodness. After a year of not seeing anyone, to see us all here tonight is such an honor and such an exciting place to be on June 1 2021.”
“While it’s been difficult and traumatic, to say the least, we as an organization, hold so much gratitude for all that the last year has shown us and brought us together in numerous ways,” Royce added.
The “2S” that has been added to LGBTQ+ stands for two spirit, a way some indigenous people refer to having both masculine and feminine spirit.
“I’m a proud two-spirit Choctaw citizen,” said Kendra Wilson-Clements. “I have my babies with me here today.” Wilson-Clements was referring to the Native American youth who she brought with her to the ceremony.
I’m going to give a hashtag #landback acknowledgement because hashtag land back is reclamation and rematriation,” said Wilson-Clements. “It’s all encompassing. Its land, ceremony, sovereignty, food, water, culture, traditions, language, our boys and men with long braided hair, gender non-conforming two spirit people. That’s land back. That’s everything.”
The history of land acquisition by the U.S. government from the tribes that had original claim to the land was recalled by the group.
Some of the youth gave testimony to their experiences as they navigate a host culture that often does not understand the deeper elements of Native American life.
“Act of rebellion”
Allie Shinn, executive director of Freedom Oklahoma, introduced the City of Oklahoma City government leaders who were on the program.
She recalled the history of and even ongoing suppression of life that goes beyond binary sexuality.
“Every single breath a queer or trans person takes is a radical act, act of rebellion,” said Shinn. “Every single breath that a queer trans person takes is a revolution.”
“And, if that was all we ever did with our lives here, then we would be doing more than so many people ever do to build a better world. But thankfully, queer people and trans people have always done more, we’ve never settled for less.”
Shinn hinted at the recent legal struggles the new OKC Pride Alliance organization has had with bar owners along The Strip who wanted to stop them from using some of the familiar terminology connected to Pride events in Oklahoma City.
The legal action came when the parade was announced as moving to Scissortail Park instead of along the Strip.
“As long as we continue this relay race of rebellion, and pride exists, pride cannot be owned, it cannot be trademarked or taken. It cannot be sued into submission or even contained,” said Shinn to loud applause.
Ward 2 Oklahoma City Council member James Cooper recalled the history of suppression of people with other than binary orientations in the city. Cooper has become the de facto historian of queer life in Oklahoma City much to the delight of a community long closeted.
He pointed out the many ways those who were caught in any other expression were punished both by law and by public shaming in the dominant newspaper at the time, The Daily Oklahoman.
He also told about the first “Gay Pride” parade in Oklahoma City in 1988 and how persons associated with the KKK tried to stand in their way in their march from N.W. 39th and Classen to the Strip west of N.W. 39th and Penn.
Cooper used the memory of that event to encourage others today to continue to stand up for an inclusive society.
“Remember how afraid they were and use their strength to guide you,” said Cooper to shouts from the crowd. “Never give up on yourself, this city and our LGBTQ community.”
The program closed with Lauren Zuniga presenting her poem “Rainbow Revolution.”
Activities will happen all through the month of June.
Once upon a time, they said our love
was not fit for sunshine and open air.
Once upon a time, we hid in strobe lights,
held each other in siren ready dives,
whispered code words, flashed
membership cards, clung to whichever
privilege could promise more safety.
Once upon a time, in Oklahoma,
we lost our families and churches
when we chose to live our truth.
So we gathered in downtown basements
and Route 66 motor lodges, built our
own churches, became our own family.
Raised money for each other’s hospital bills,
legal fees, funerals. Stitched a community
together like sequins on a gown.
We turned a rainbow into a runway
and welcomed everyone to the show.
Once upon a time in Oklahoma City,
500 lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans
residents marched with allies down
39th Street and called it a parade.
Raised enough fists into the air to
scare away the KKK and you thought
only Stonewall had legends.
Once upon a time, we said MORE
FLAGS, MORE COLORS. We said
MORE LETTERS and plus plus plus.
They called us EXTRA, we said
YES, AND. They called us queer,
we said, p.H.D.
Once upon a time we turned a struggle
into a party and called it PRIDE.
They said only if you stay on your street,
we said, thanks, but we’ll take the whole city.
In broad daylight. Our mighty spectrum
shimmering in the June sun. Said, even
our state bird is two-spirit. Our home,
this land of heart and sorrow and storm.
Said you can’t hide us, can’t solve us,
can’t end us. We are the Rainbow Revolution.
— Lauren Zuniga
Last Updated August 20, 2021, 9:07 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor