The Oakland Post

Students branch out to volunteer at Pride events

The Gay Straight Alliance is spending June volunteering at Ferndale and Motor City Pride

The Gay Straight Alliance is spending June volunteering at Ferndale and Motor City Pride

The Gay Straight Alliance is spending June volunteering at Ferndale and Motor City Pride

Cheyenne Kramer, Managing Editor

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Note: This article stated the Gay Straight Alliance participated in the Pride events. While an email blast was sent to GSA email subscribers, the volunteering efforts were put on by the Gender and Sexuality Center, Undergraduate Admissions, and University Communications and Marketing as part of the Out on Campus initiative. The Oakland Post apologizes for this error. 

Pride events often need volunteers. The annual drag show requires many student volunteers, as does the pride prom and lavender graduation celebrations.

Together with volunteers from the Gender and Sexuality Center, Undergraduate Admissions and University Communications and Marketing, students volunteered with metro Detroit area pride festivals for the first time.

June 3’s Ferndale Pride attracts more than 15000 people according to its website. It has been an annual event since 2011.

This year’s festivities were a bit different thanks to the number of volunteers. Pride fests, and many LGBTQIA+ spaces in general, are known for the consumption of alcohol. Pride Institute estimates up to 45% of LGBT individuals suffer from alcohol abuse. This year, Smirnoff released limited-edition bottles featuring real couples to sell and raise money for the Human Rights Campaign

To combat that problem, Ferndale Pride included a “sober space” for those who wished to have a space away from drinking.

Although volunteering with Ferndale Pride is through for the year, OU representatives will also attend Motor City Pride on June 10 and 11.

Motor City Pride has over 40,000 participants each year, according to its website.

Oakland went to promote the university as an inclusive campus to the LGBT community, and volunteers were able to share their own experiences to festival attendees.

“I am hopeful our presence will allow us to inform potential students and employees of all the work being done on campus to further diversity, equity and inclusion, especially in regard to LGBTQIA issues,” said Grace Wojcik, director of the Gender and Sexuality Center.

Jake Semma, a recent graduate of Oakland University, went with OU to volunteer at Ferndale Pride and plans to volunteer at Motor City.

“I loved the experience because it allowed me to spread the word about OU being incredibly LGBT inclusive, and talk to possible future students,” Semma said.

Semma said students came to talk to the OU volunteers, and said that they would choose OU because of how inclusive it was. Recent inclusion measures on Oakland’s campus include a preferred name policy, which was put into place last year.

What is Pride Month?

Pride Festivals happen in remembrance of the Stonewall Rebellion, which occurred in June of 1969. Commonly referred to as the Stonewall Riot, the uprising is known as the dawn of the modern LGBT Rights Movement.

Motor City Pride began in 1986. An organization called the Michigan Organization for Human Rights organized Michigan’s first gay and lesbian march.

The march was moved to Lansing in 1989, leaving no event in metro Detroit for members of the LGBT community to rally behind. This left Frank Colasanti, Jr, and the Detroit Area Gay/Lesbian Council to start the first pride festival in the gymnasium of the University of Michigan.

“Pride festivals are open to everyone, and provide a space for LGBT people to celebrate their identities in a society that often oppresses them,” Semma said.

Though there are entertainers at Pride, including Sabin, who has been performing at the Oakland University drag show for many years, Semma said that the focus of pride shouldn’t be on the entertainment.

“[Pride festivals are] about promotion of a community that is often overlooked or lacking in rights and protections,” he said.

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