The sixth annual Kalamazoo Pride festival kicks off Friday in downtown Kalamazoo at the Arcadia Creek Festival Site. The Kalamazoo Gay Lesbian Resource Center organizes the event that Executive Director Zach Bauer says is designed to be both serious and entertaining.
The events line-up Friday includes the Miss(ter) Kalamazoo Pride Contest drag show, a performance by Manila Luzon, the “Asian Glamasaurus” and former runner-up on RuPaul’s Drag Race, and J.C. Jones featuring a blend of R & B, soul, and dance music.
On Saturday there’s the Pride Brunch at the Wine Loft with Kevin Jennings, the executive director of the Arcus Foundation in Kalamazoo. Events later in the day will include comedian Tanya Atkinson from Milwaukee and the Grand Rapids band Hannaniah and The Boys singing music from the 1960’s to current pop tunes.
But Bauer says Kalamazoo Pride is also intended to send a message that southwest Michigan has a diversity of sexual orientation and gender identity. Bauer also hopes that it will raise public awareness of discrimination against people who are gay, lesbian, or transgender. He says Michigan has lagged behind other states in that area. It is one of 26 states in which employers can legally fire workers because of their sexual orientation, and one of 35 states where a person can be dismissed for being transgender.
Bauer says this year’s Kalamazoo Pride events won’t tackle the issue of marriage equality for LGBT people head on. Michigan voters approved a ban on gay marriage in 2004, although a campaign is underway to overturn the law. But Bauer says petitions will be circulated supporting proposed ordinances in the City of Portage as well as Oshtemo, Comstock, and Kalamazoo townships that would ban discrimination against LGBT people in housing, public accommodation, and employment. The proposals are similar to Ordinance 1856 approved overwhelmingly by voters in the City of Kalamazoo in 2009.
Kalamazoo Pride is the biggest fundraiser of the year for the Kalamazoo Gay Lesbian Resource Center. Tickets cost $5 for the events Friday evening and $7 for those on Saturday, or $10 for both days. The Center says the events on Friday are mainly aimed at people 18 and older although those under 18 will be admitted.