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OKC Pride Week
Oklahoma City Ward 2 Councilman James Cooper speaks to HIV prevention educator Michael Maus during the opening ceremonies of OKC Pride Week on Monday, June 17, 2019. (Tres Savage)

Oklahoma City Pride Week kicked off Monday evening with a series of speeches, honorary designations and the first official mayoral proclamation in city history.

“We have got to undo the damage done that has perpetrated white supremacy, sexism, transphobia, you name it,” said OKC Ward 2 Councilman James Cooper. “If it’s an ‘obia’ it’s been put in your brain, and it’s time to undo it. (…) I want to send a message to every student where I taught at Jefferson Middle School and to every K-12 student who calls Oklahoma City home — a better environment is around the corner.”

Elected in February, Cooper became Oklahoma City’s first openly LGBTQ councilperson, a distinction referenced by Mayor David Holt in his official proclamation for OKC Pride Week 2019:

Prior to Holt’s remarks, event organizers spoke of the purpose and history of Pride Week.

“Pride is about standing up. It is about fighting back, and we know that despite these gains, we have so much left to do,” Freedom Oklahoma director Allie Shinn said. “We have work left to do in an Oklahoma where you can be denied a job or fired for your sexual orientation or gender identity. We have more work to do when transgender Oklahomans — particularly transgender women of color — are being attacked and killed simply for being who they are. That is our fight, this is our battle. We will not rest until all of our families are safe.”

Lauren Zuniga, director of the new Oklahoma City Pride Alliance, discussed the past and the future of OKC Pride Week.

“Once upon a time, a rundown motorstop off of Route 66 became a haven for gay and trans folks in the center of one of the most conservative states in the nation. In 1987, members of our community held the first block party on 39th Street. They went behind some buildings with a boombox, called it ‘Glitter Alley,’ they had beer and drag performances and hotdogs … and beer,” Zuniga said to laughter. “And finally, after years of having pride celebrations in hiding, Maryann Ladd — who at the time was the president of the Oasis Community Center — said, ‘Next year, we’re going to have a pride parade, even if it’s just two lesbians on a bicycle.'”

The parade occurred, and Zuniga told Monday’s crowd of roughly 300 supporters that the KKK showed up “ready to beat up some gays.” No marchers engaged, she said, and the large crowd was “enough to scare the KKK away.”

‘A new model for funding our city’s pride celebrations’

Zuniga also told Monday’s audience that 2019 Pride Week nearly never happened. After a former pride group’s president was charged with embezzling thousands of dollars, community leaders rallied to form a new fundraising network.

“The Oklahoma City Pride Alliance was formed to build a new model for funding our city’s pride celebrations,” Zuniga said. “By creating an alliance of member agencies, we believe we can fundraise for and promote LGBTQ+ issues 365 days a year.”

Pride’s biggest day in OKC, however, is the annual parade. This year’s will be a little different, with the Oklahoma City Pride Legends & Rebels parade scheduled for noon Saturday, June 22. Previously, the parade has occurred on a Sunday.

This year’s parade will start at the intersection of N.W. 39th Street and Classen Boulevard, continuing along 39th Street until North Youngs Boulevard. Viewers can gather as early as 10 a.m.

(Oklahoma City Pride)

2019 Pride Week ‘more of a citywide thing’

As usual, the 2019 festival will feature performers and vendors, but this year the official map designates a red zone, for people 18 years and older, and green zones that are billed as friendlier for families.

“Pride has always had an emphasis on family-friendly events, and certainly we want to keep that tradition alive,” Shinn said Monday. “But there’s been more of an emphasis on expanding kind of what pride means, who is able to attend, where pride occurs. So we are just trying to make it more of a citywide thing with of course still a focus on 39th Street.”

In addition to the parade, OKC Pride Week has a slew of events scheduled. You can find the full list here.

Hannah Royce, a member of the pride advisory council, told NonDoc earlier Monday that the internet sensation country pride truck will be driving in the parade and that people will be able to take pictures with it afterwards. She also emphasized that the OKC pride festival was for the whole state.

“It’s not OKC pride or Tulsa pride,” Royce said. “It’s the state’s pride.”

This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots which led to the LGBTQ liberation movement, making this year’s celebrations special for many.

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William W. Savage III (Tres) holds a journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma. He covered two sessions of the Oklahoma Legislature for eCapitol.net before working in health care for six years. He is a nationally certified Mental Health First Aid instructor.
Ben White attends the University of Oklahoma where he studies creative media production in the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication. After a 2018 internship with NonDoc, he now serves as the site's Student Editor, helping publish other Gaylord College students' work.