MASON, Mich. — Mason's first-ever pride event was hosted at Rayner Park Sunday.
There was music, face painting, a magician, free T-Shirts, flags representing different gender identities and sexual orientations, plenty of food and an abundance of acceptance and pride.
“Pride month to me is where I get to be me in terms of this,” said Ace Shorkey as they gestured to the non-binary flag with a bisexual heart that was wrapped around their shoulders. “With this flag, I get to stay me.”
Mason’s Equity Taskforce hosted the event. The group was founded by Rhiannon Klein and former special education teacher Katelyne Thomas. Thomas resigned from the Mason School District earlier this year after school officials denied her request to teach her students about the Black Lives Matter movement.
“It brings visibility to the community in a small town especially. You know we are neighbors to Lansing, but in a small town, visibility is not as present," Thomas said. "It’s the first pride event that I’m aware of occurring in Mason. Which is really exciting, and it’s a great turnout!”
Around 100 people of all ages showed up.
“Lots of families, young families, a lot of amazing elders that are sharing their stories with me of diversity and things they went through and how happy they are to be here to celebrate this for Mason’s first community pride event," said Mason Council Member Rita Vogel. "Today is really about celebrating unity and giving voice to people.”
For some, like 13-year-old Ayana Miller from Lansing, this was their first pride event.
“I was in the closet for a while,” Miller said. “I love being here. It’s great being here, just being around people that are like me.”
Others stumbled upon the event and wanted to take part.
"We actually were over on the other side of the park doing a Lolita swap-meet, and we noticed some people with like bisexual face painting and we were like, ‘Hey! We’re bi,'" Alina Marr said.
“We actually just met today," Antoinette Deaver laughed. "Now, we're friends."
Magician Paul Koberanis drove from Jackson to perform at the picnic.
“I’m also a part of the LGBTQ community," Koberanis said. "There’s a lot of people that I’ve experienced and talked to in the past that don’t feel – even though it’s a safe event, they still feel unsafe being out and being who they are.”
A.J. Williamson of Stockbridge said they can relate, and pride is about respect. They said the community can demonstrate allyship all year round by, “asking people’s pronouns, respecting their identity and what gender they go by.”
“I think this is a message to the entire community, our youth especially that you are welcome, you are seen, you are valued for who you are, and there are people in this community that support you," Thomas said.
For more information on The Equity Taskforce and their upcoming events, click here.
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