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Pride events will include parade

The University of Mississippi’s Pride Network is working with other student groups and the Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies to hold a Pride Weekend in May, which will include a parade around the downtown Square.

Organizer Matt Kessler, a graduate student at the university, said the events are designed to “create inclusive, welcoming spaces for the university’s queer student body and for Oxford’s queer community.”

Queer is an umbrella term that describes anyone who identifies himself or herself as something other than heterosexual, but not necessary homosexual.

Planned events include a Pride parade, a drag show, a dance performance and dance party at Proud Larry’s.

Weekend events

The weekend will kick off on May 5 at 9 p.m. with a Code Pink club and dance night at Proud Larry’s with a $5 entrance free for people 18 and up.

“We’ll have three deejays and a special dance performance by local performers,” Kessler said.

A drag show will be held on Friday, also at Proud Larry’s, with drag queens from Tupelo and Memphis and will also have a $5 cover charge.

On May 7, the Pride Parade will start at about 2:30 p.m. From the Gertrude Ford Performing Arts Center, go up University Avenue to South Lamar Boulevard where it will continue around the Square. An after-party will be held at the Lamar Lounge on North Lamar Boulevard at about 3:30 p.m.

Kessler said the group applied for and obtained a permit for the parade from the Oxford Police Department.

“They were great and really supportive,” Kessler said of OPD. “They said they’d have at least four officers there.”

Kessler said those watching the parade can expect to see some floats, marchers and drag queens.

“This is our first year, so we’re not sure what to expect yet,” he said. “But I can tell you it will be a whole bunch of fun stuff.”

While Kessler doesn’t expect any backlash or violence, he said the best protection for the paraders would be the crowds.

“We welcome anyone who wants to support us to come see the parade,” he said. “Having supporters there is the best crowd control.”

PFLAG joins support

The weekend will end Sunday with the Crossroads Film Society and Oxford Film Festival partnering to provide a free screening of five curated short films: LGBTQ Shorts: Struggles and Celebrations of Being Out in the Deep South starting at 4 p.m. at the Shelter on Van Buren Avenue.

Gail Stratton, with the PFLAG Oxford/North Mississippi said the organization would be supporting the weekend events.

“We will be celebrating the diversity that exists in our wider community,” Stratton said. “We will also celebrate the recent ruling that gay couples can now legally adopt. The world is big enough for all of us and, as the song says ‘All God’s children have a place in the choir.’”

PFLAG welcomes everyone who would like a deeper conversation about the issues facing our state to their next meeting tonight at 7 p.m. in the Harrison Room of the J.D. Williams Library on the campus of the University of Mississippi.

HB1523

Kessler said the events for Pride Weekend were already being planned before the passing of House Bill 1523, referred to as the “Religious Freedom” bill, that offers protections for employees, businesses, and social workers for denying services based on the belief that marriage is strictly between a man and a woman. However, he said the Pride Weekend couldn’t come at a better time.

“With the passing of this bill, it is more prudent than ever to have our voices heard,” he said.

For more information, email Kessler at mkessler@go.olemiss.edu. To make a donation to help support the Pride Weekend events, visit www.razoo.com/us/story/Loupride.