There may not be as much notoriety surrounding Starkville’s second Pride parade, but community support has been substantial, according to the event’s organizers.
Starkville hosted its first ever Pride parade last year — which proponents say was aimed toward celebrating the local LGBTQ community — following a pair of controversial votes that made national headlines. Starkville Pride organizers said the community support planning the second Pride parade has been positive.
"Businesses have opened their doors to Pride and the Starkville community has welcomed everyone with open arms. Collaboration with the student organizations on the MSU campus has also increased our reach and allowed us to connect people together," Starkville Queer Art Market and Campus Events Coordinator Grey Garris said.
Garris said Starkville Pride represents two things: the wellspring of hidden support in the Starkville community and the impact young activists can have on the current political and social landscape.
Garris was shocked by the overwhelming degree of support the organization received last year following its original application's denial.
Starkville Pride's original application was denied in February 2018 with a 4-3 vote by the Starkville Board of Aldermen. The grassroots group then filed a lawsuit against the city, which requested and ultimately prompted a second vote that saw Mayor Lynn Spruill serve as the tie-breaking vote, along with Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk, Ward 4 Alderman Jason Walker and Ward 5 Alderman Patrick Miller, who voted in favor.
Ward 3 Alderman David Little recused himself from the second vote, while Ward 1’s Ben Carver, Ward 7’s Henry Vaughn voted against, along with Vice Mayor and Ward 6 Alderman Roy A’. Perkins.
In a vote last December for the city’s second Pride parade, Carver, Perkins and Vaughn remained opposed to the parade, while Little voted in favor of the parade with its initial three supporting aldermen.
"The backup from around the country was immensely impressive, but it was the people of the city of Starkville who truly staggered me. There was a huge amount of encouragement from local small businesses, the students of Mississippi State, local religious institutions, and so many more," Garris said.
The initial denial drew national attention, but the presence of thousands in support of the LGBTQ community made the parade the largest of its kind in the city’s history. The support was especially important from a place Garris has called a second home the past four years.
"To the second, I think it is a problem of our time that those who have been in established positions for a great length of time have either forgotten or seem to refute the great strength of willpower of dedicated young people. Bailey McDaniel put forward last year's Pride as what we all believed to be a small attempt at opening up Starkville's doors even more to those LGBTQ folks who may not have believed they could feel at home in a small southern city," Garris said. "This effect that individuals like Bailey and the other student members of last year's and this year's Board had and have is truly inspiring."
Campus events at Mississippi State University will be held in collaboration with the LGBTQ+ Union student group. All community members are welcome to attend.
Monday, March 25
10 a.m.- 12 p.m. Pups for Pride, Drill Field
7 p.m.-8:30 p.m. Drag Queen Bingo, Dawghouse
Tuesday, March 26
10 a.m.-12 p.m. Flower Sale, Drill Field
7 p.m.-8:30 p.m. Film screening "Love, Simon", Taylor Auditorium
Wednesday, March 27
5 p.m.-6:30 p.m. Queer Religion: An Open Discussion, Fowlkes Auditorium
Thursday, March 28
10 a.m.- 12 p.m. Multi-cutural Bake Sale, Drill Field
7 p.m.-9 p.m. Open Mic Night, Lee Hall Plaza
To kick-off the official event there will be a concert at Rick's Cafe from 8 p.m. until midnight on March 29 with The Bold O'Donaghues headlining. Tickets are on sale for $10 at starkvillepride.com.
On Saturday, March 30, the Queer Art Market will be from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Fire Station Park. Anyone interested in being a vendor can apply through Starkville Pride's website.
The parade will begin at 11 a.m. on March 30 and proceed through the same route as last year. Route details will be provided at a later time.
At 4 p.m in Taylor Auditorium, McCool Hall at MSU "Call Me By Your Name" will be showing.
Garris said their biggest event outside of the parade, the Pride Drag Show, will take place at Rick's Cafe from 8:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Tickets can be purchased for $20 on oharasentertainment.net.
Sunday, March 31 Starkville Pride is hosting a wind-down spiritual night event in Rogers Auditorium in McCool Hall at MSU with two speakers from School for Seekers at 6 p.m.
T-shirts are also available for pre-order on the Starkville Pride website as well.
The Starkville Pride board members said they believe the rights of the LGBTQ individuals have a long way to go in America.
"In multiple states, queer-identifying individuals can face job loss, eviction, or more for the simple fact of their identity. That has been, remains, and will be a completely unacceptable part of our reality," Garris said. “We believe true, long lasting change can be made.”