From the RI Pride President: PrideFest 2016

Welcome to the 40th Anniversary Celebration of Rhode Island Pride!

Pride XL LogoWhen I helped to plan and celebrate the 30th and 35th Anniversaries of Rhode Island Pride, I never expected I would still be around planning for the 40th Anniversary. What does it mean that I am still here? Progress, Celebrate, Excel – our theme for this year –  what do those words mean to me? As I think about it, and reflect on some of the events of the past few months here in Rhode Island, there is one other word that keeps coming back to me: community. Last year’s theme, IndiVisible, really helped to define for me how coming together as a community makes us stronger. We progress together when we are united by a common goal. It is as simple as a small group of acquaintances reaching out and finding a way to boost an individual who needs some positivity and support after a week of bad breaks. It’s as complicated as rallying multiple groups and organizations in a years-long effort to eradicate inequalities like marriage, racial profiling, or transgender bias. And it is as beautiful as providing an opportunity for our queer youth to celebrate and build confidence, demonstrating that it is okay to be their true selves.

PrideFest is a celebration of our progress, especially in an anniversary year. As we celebrate, we should remember to look around and witness those of us who are still struggling – those in our community who are still being harassed on a daily basis for the color of their skin, their gender non-conformity, or their rainbow socks. Rhode Island Pride joined the Step Up Coalition earlier this year. Led by the Providence Youth Student Movement, the Coalition is working to pass the Community Safety Act in Providence to protect people of color from racial profiling and unfair treatment by police. By default, it would also work to the benefit of others, such as David Alves of Woonsocket, a deaf man like me, who was arrested and denied his due process rights because there was no system in place to ensure he was treated fairly and equally.

As I write this, members of our community are coming to the defense of a transgender teen in Warwick who was unfairly thrust into the public eye because someone did not like her using the bathroom she is legally allowed to use. Last week, youth from across the state descended on the Born This Way Prom in Newport, produced by Interweave at Channing Memorial Church. It was beautiful to witness our queer youth abandon their insecurities and build confidence throughout the night. But why only a night? Why is this separate event even necessary?

Kurt BagleyAs we celebrate this Pride season, remember that we are a community that excels when we support one another. We still have work to do, but from my experiences just in the last few weeks, I believe we are well on our way to accomplishing even more great things.

Welcome to Rhode Island Pride’s 40th Anniversary: Progress, Celebrate, Excel!

Yours In Pride,

Kurt Bagley

Rhode Island Pride is a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to promoting the visibility, equality, and diversity of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community and provides safe space to come out, express, and celebrate all sexual identities and genders. For more information, email info@prideri.com; call (401) 467-2130; or join us for a gathering in our office at 1055 Westminster Street, Floor 2, in Providence.