In 2008 Kiele Adams and Brandon Bush, members of Valdosta State University’s Gay-Straight Alliance, envisioned something for their community’s LGBT population. “At the time, polls showed that the Lowndes county area had the highest population of openly same-sex couples outside of Atlanta,” Bush shared. “The idea started as a simple LGBT family picnic.” That year, Valdosta Diversity Pride took shape and held its first campus festival.
The vision only got bigger when, in 2009, it was decided that Valdosta Pride needed to become its own nonprofit organization with an eventual goal of being held off campus in order to encompass the LGBT community at large.
Fast forward to 2012 and South Georgia Pride celebrates its fourth year as a nonprofit community organization, third year off VSU’s campus and its first corporate sponsorship- a far cry from a simple LGBT family picnic. “Seeing how [South Georgia Pride] has evolved throughout the years has been amazing,” Bush beamed.
Earlier this summer, Raynae’ Williams, Assistant Executive Director of South Georgia Pride, met with Valdosta Mayor John Gayle when he refused to sign an official proclamation naming September 15th as South Georgia Pride Day.
Williams told local media the meeting lasted less than 5 minutes and Gayle refused to sign the proclamation because he didn’t believe in the LGBT lifestyle. But that hasn’t stopped the rest of the community from showing their support.
“Not getting [a] proclamation this year did not hurt us or make anything difficult. It just pointed out to everyone about the discrimination that our new mayor has,” Williams shared. “The local NAACP contacted us when this story went out and let us know that they were 100% behind us . . . this year has seen our biggest growth in the community. We have [the] support of several churches and many straight allies.”
This year, South Georgia Pride launches its festival theme, “Serving with Pride”, to honor the men and women who dedicate their lives to protecting our nation and the first anniversary of DADT’s repeal.
The 2012 South Georgia Pride Festival will kick off Saturday, September 15th at 12pm and is once again set to take place in John W. Saunder’s Park. This year’s festival features a diverse entertainment lineup that includes up and coming singer-songwriter Julie Shurr and her brand of “indierockbitchfolk”, out hip-hop artist Young Kaii, local rockers Marilyn and Her Monsters and country artist Drew Kelly. The entertainment will be capped off by an enormous cast of drag performances featuring Spikey Van Dikey and the Ladies of Glo Ultra Lounge.
The festival will also feature several guest speakers including Evelyn Thomas of The Sanctuary Project, an organization started in 2009 when Navy Seaman August Provost was presumably murdered because of his sexual orientation. Thomas founded The Sanctuary Project to honor and help those harmed under DADT.
Elke Kennedy will also make her third appearance at South Georgia Pride on behalf of Sean’s Last Wish, an organization she started when her son was murdered in Greenville, SC because of his sexual orientation in 2007.
Pride doesn’t stop when the festival ends at 7pm. The party continues at the Official South Georgia Pride After Party at Glo Ultra Lounge. Kicking off at 9pm, there is a $10 cover for those under 21 and $5 for 21+. And you can be sure the bartenders will be ‘serving with pride’.