MASON, Mich. — The Equity Taskforce in Mason is a volunteer-run group that works to create educational and inclusive, community-centered events in Mason. The nonprofit was established in 2021 and is a partner with the Lansing branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Sunday, June 25, the task force hosted their third annual Pride Picnic. The picnic is centered around family fun and providing resources for LGBTQ+ youth.
"One of the reasons why we chose to focus our event on families because I think it's really important for LGBTQ+ youth to have that safe and affirming space and time for celebration and acceptance. And so we want to have that opportunity for families to come and get resources for children to be themselves, feel safe and meet other in the community," said The Equity Task force Chair Mary Louk.
Some resources are being provided by Michigan State University Trans Resilience Group and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan.
"There's also going to be a community art project where attendees will have the opportunity to write love letters if you will, words of encouragement for trans youth," said Louk.
Mason City Council Member Rita Vogel said she believes people want to be in communities that resonate with them and their values, which puts a greater emphasis on The Equity Taskforce and mental health resources in the capital area.
"The city of Mason our crisis intervention calls have doubled, you know, a lot of mental health with our young children. Families don't know the language yet of support just yet. Living in a conservative, rural community often means more isolation, depression, suicidal ideation and feeling like you don't fit or belong because you don't see anybody that represents or look like you," said Vogel.
She also says it puts a greater emphasis on the importance of diversity and inclusion in rural towns like Mason.
"Working with The Equity Taskforce since its inception has been much needed in our community. I think when pandemic hit with the lock down and isolation, community members really had a chance to take an inventory and self expression is the thing," said Vogel.
And the Mason local government has taken strides towards supporting the LGBTQ+ community .
"Last year in April, City Council passed a Pride resolution understanding the commitment to make space," said Vogel.
However, support doesn't just come for The Equity Taskforce and local government. The opportunity for small businesses to support the community are on the rise.
"Clearly, there has been some issues in Mason over the past, different equality type things. The Equality Taskforce comes together, and we're just here to try to help and makes things more equal for people and all races and genders. And we're excited that we get to be apart of this," said Bad Brewing Company owner Brian Rasdale.
They had a paired Pride event with the task force Saturday, June 24, for people over the age of 21.
"So we have our Pride drag show, it's a charity event. It's a really cool event, it's a paired event, it's 21 and up. It's sold out at this point, it's a great event. It promotes equality, it promotes people from around the area. It's something a little different for here in Mason, and we're good with that. We really enjoy, respect and love different cultures, different aspects of life, and it's just something here at Bad Brewing we 100% believe in," said Rasdale.
The drag show garnered concern from some community members at a City Council meeting, and some community members say they planned to protest the outdoor event.
"Of course there's community backlash, and people that don't agree with it, and that's totally fine. They know when our events going to be, and they don't need to be down and around here if they don't agree with stuff," said Rasdale.
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