Oxford’s Pride Weekend kicks off this Thursday for its second year of celebrating sexual and gender diversity in the city. Events run through Sunday and include Code Pink, drag shows, a pride parade and more.
“Simply put, the Pride Week is a chance to celebrate the LGBTQ community in Oxford,” Jaime Harker, a professor and director of the Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies and key sponsor of the events, said. “It’s an attempt to talk about that kind of diversity, celebrate that and make it visible.”
The Pride Parade focuses on these goals, allowing the LGBTQ community to be embraced in Oxford.
The theme of the weekend is “liberty and justice for all,” highlighting the need for equality and respect among all people, especially those who have been marginalized for their differences.
The concept is still young, as it began just last year.
“We had students last year that said, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if we had a pride parade?’” Harker said.
Part of the mission of the Sarah Isom Center is to empower students to transform their dreams into reality, especially realities that move the community toward more inclusion, tolerance and celebration of diversity.
Though it will only be the second Pride Parade, the planners are expecting an even better year than the last.
“We learned a lot of things along the way,” Harker said, explaining the experience they gained by obtaining permits, planning activities and sharing their plans with those all around the city. “We’ve been meeting once a month with UPD and OPD to make sure all the logistics are right.”
With less time devoted to learning the process of permits for a parade, the sponsors have had more time to get the word out about the event.
“It’s going to be better this year,” Harker said. “It’s going to be a good time.”
The events of the weekend go beyond just the parade, however.
The Code Pink: Pride Edition will include dancing, DJs, drag queens and halftime show performances Thursday night at Proud Larry’s.
The parade itself will be Saturday afternoon on the Square. The celebration is a place for the LGBTQ community to be seen and accepted by the university and community as a whole.
Last year, some students’ emotions overflowed from the feelings of acceptance from their neighbors, friends and family who participated.
“Oxford needs more public spaces for the LGBTQ community to convene,” Matt Kessler, a key creator of the event, said.
Though his work planning Pride Weekend is mostly logistical and behind-the-scenes, the importance of his work is apparent. The hard work of the Sarah Isom Center and students like Kessler allow the representation and celebration of a group that often faces challenges in the South.
The parade will include a wide array of participants, from one of Oxford’s double-decker buses to a car club from Memphis. Students and community members, as well as those from other communities, will gather to honor and welcome the diversity that exists throughout Oxford.
Events continue throughout the weekend with a drag performance at The Lyric Oxford Saturday night, featuring performers from the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. On Sunday, The Powerhouse will host a film screening to benefit the LGBTQ arts and culture fund.
“I know they will all be great events,” Harker said. “Everyone should come. This is for everybody. If you’re LGBTQ, you should come. If you’re an ally, you should come. If you just like parties and parades, you should come. Everybody is welcome.”