Black Girls in CLE Meet Pride in the CLE?

Earlier this month, I went down to Public Square to experience Pride in the CLE. Pride in the CLE was a multi-day event that began May 29th and ended on June 4th. The celebration was put together by the LGBT Center of Cleveland to coincide with LGBT Pride Month. (Did you know that Cleveland has 2 Pride celebrations? Read more here)

Assembling for a group picture at Public Square

Assembling for a group picture at Public Square

I’ll admit, this being my first experience at any PRIDE celebrations, I had lots of questions. Ironically, my first question was similar to a question that we get asked about our events and blog. Can straight people go to PRIDE or is it a celebration for the LGBT community?

Second question, of course, what do I wear to a Pride celebration?  Should I wear rainbow colors, or get a rainbow flag or is that reserved for members of the community? I discovered that I could wear whatever I wanted. I learned that this event was about being your authentic self.  

After pushing past my insecurities, I arrived downtown, solo.  Equipped with my Pride Guide, I wondered where to start. Since the event was just getting started, I headed towards Cleveland City Hall where the march was set to begin.

Rainbow Flag flying atop Cleveland City Hall

Rainbow Flag flying atop Cleveland City Hall

There were over 60 groups participating in the march and festival including large companies like Progressive Insurance, and Key Bank, who sponsored the event as well a variety of local organizations and churches. As the march headed down Lakeside the marchers chanted things like  “out of the closet, into the street.” and “hey hey, ho, ho, homophobia's got to go.”

Just two of the organizations participating in the march

Just two of the organizations participating in the march

A great group of guys, I met at the march

A great group of guys, I met at the march

The march ended at Public Square which was filled with vendors, food trucks and a large stage for entertainment. Under the red tents there were churches, and stores like Walgreens, and Ambiance, political advocacy groups and food vendors.

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The event was family friendly. People were there with their dogs, children played with an oversized Connect Four game or cornhole set, teens visited the youth tent getting information and swag bags. On stage the North Coast Men’s Choir performed along with a variety of speakers including Mayor Frank Jackson, city council members and prominent members of Cleveland’s LGBT community. The LGBT Community Center also presented this year’s Pride scholarship to Noreen Thomas.

Overall there were some great takeaways from this event, and reasons that I would return to next year's event.

  • It’s all about acceptance:  While I don’t pretend to know all there is about life as a LGBT person the important part is I don’t have to. A common message throughout the day was about self-acceptance and being true and comfortable with oneself.

  • It’s inclusive: While this event was an opportunity for the LGBT community to celebrate, straight singles and couples can attend and you won’t be hated on.

  • It’s about advocacy: Throughout the day many speakers talked about how important and effective the community had been in advocating for rights. Mayor Jackson said it perfectly, “Once you become silent then people think you don’t exist”

  • Having a good relationship with the city is key:  No matter what city or suburb you live in.  It was clear that the city supported the community. Multiple city departments came together to help make this event successful.

Have you been to a Pride celebration? Share your experience in the comment section below and check out the rest of our pictures on our Facebook Page