Carl Struble (left) cuts a ribbon to open the Jackson Pride Center with Nikki Joly, director of the center. BTL photo: Todd A. Heywood

City of Jackson Hosts Inaugural Pride Celebration

KATE OPALEWSKI

The city of Jackson is getting ready for its first ever LGBTQ Pride celebration this month with a parade, flag raising and festival Aug. 5. The festivities, hosted by Nikki Joly and the Jackson Pride Center, show support for the LGBTQ community in Jackson, but also to let people outside of the community know that Jackson is an accepting and inclusive town.

"I'm incredibly geeked," said Joly, who is expecting well over 1,000 people to attend the inaugural event.

Joly said members of the Jackson community kept saying "let's do something" following the passing of a non-discrimination ordinance in April, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

"The NDO was important to provide those protections, but also to make sure that we are a city that practices tolerance and inclusion, and outwardly shows that we view diversity as a strength, particularly within the city where we've lost 40 percent of the population over the past decades," said Vice Mayor and Sixth Ward Councilman Derek Dobies, who will challenge Mayor Bill Jors for his seat in the November election. Jors, who voted against the NDO several times, did not respond to BTL's inquiry about the pride celebration in Jackson.

"We need to put up a welcoming sign and work to attact new residents and businesses and we certainly aren't going to do that by continuing to allow discrminatory practices within our city," said Dobies. "The NDO was a good first step toward progress and really showed people that if they love their city, the city is going to love them back."

Progress was made when the Jackson Pride Center opened in February, and now with the first pride celebration, which council unanimously approved in June.

Jackson Vice Mayor and Sixth Ward Councilman Derek Dobies. BTL Photo: Todd A. Heywood

The parade will start at noon on the corner of Mechanic and Biddle Streets, and will march to Michigan Street. The flag raising and pride festival will be at Horace Blackman Park following the parade at 1 p.m. There will be a Miss Jackson Gay Pride drag queen pageant and a Drag Queen Extravaganza Show hosted by Delicious with special guests Pariis Wilson and Destiny Deville. The festival will close with a DJ dance party from 6-9 p.m.

On Aug. 6, the Jackson community is invited to the second annual "Love Is Love Is Love" interfaith worship service at 4 p.m. followed by a picnic sponsored by PFLAG.

Joly said they scheduled Jackson's pride in August because they want people from other communities to be able to attend. Everyone is welcome to attend. A $10 donation is suggested.

For more information, visit the Jackson Pride Center's Facebook page.
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