Every year, June is "pride month" in many nations around the world. (Peter Hershey)

The month of June stands as Pride Month, and this year Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt declared the third week of June as Pride Week. His support came as a signal of hope for better and as a breath of fresh air. For many in Oklahoma, this is a long time coming, as less than 20 years ago city leadership was opposing Pride efforts. So it’s important to remember that “pride” is relevant 365 days a year (or 366 days in 2020, as there is no rest for those who believe in freedom).

Pride festivities have been celebrated by folks in Stillwater, Tulsa, Tahlequah, Edmond, Norman and Oklahoma City, even at the OKC Zoo and OKC Museum of Art. Among the 175 local organizations, churches, and businesses in the 2019 OKC Pride Parade were Oklahoma City Public Schools, Dream Action Oklahoma, the OKC Thunder and the advocacy group Freedom Oklahoma, which led a group of elected officials with signs signaling their support for LGBTQ+ equality.

I must praise the strong coalition of leaders who organized the community-centric and family-friendly festivities this year after the turmoil and scandal of the previous Pride organization.

Our community should be thankful for the tireless efforts of many queer folks over the years who have fought for full equality, both socially and politically. This fight for freedom isn’t singular for LGBTQ people, but it is for the liberation of all the chains and barriers that have been inflicted on people based on their race, gender, orientation, disability, religion and other oppressed identities. People like me — black and queer — realize our oppression is just as intersectional as our liberation. This was clearly spoken and represented by the OKC Pride leadership this year.

Pride reminds us that plenty of work remains

As June’s Pride month came to a close, it was clear to me that the 2019 OKC efforts signaled a new era in Oklahoma, one that our state’s leaders cannot ignore. Pride still means more than a week, more than a month. Pride is an everyday and lived experience. It is about no longer living in fear. It is also about no longer forcing people or creating conditions where they must live in fear for their lives and security.


OKC Pride Week

‘Pride is about standing up’: OKC Pride Week kicks off by Tres Savage

Pride has positioned our community to ask whether we are OK with LGBTQ youth making up 40 percent of youth experiencing homelessness. Pride is about whether we will continue to allow violence against transgender people. (Read about the life and legacy of Brooklyn BreYanna Stevenson). Pride is about asking whether we still find it legally permissible to refuse to hire or willingly fire a person because of their sexual and/or gender identities. Pride is asking whether we will continue to allow “religious liberty” to continue to step on the necks of freedom and equality for the sake of bigotry. For many, the status quo is acceptable, but Pride 2019 in Oklahoma symbolized that many more are coming out to say “enough!

Just as the Stonewall Uprising was five decades ago, Pride efforts are now foremost an act of resistance before they were ever a celebration. Today, thanks to the hard-fought victories of many queer and trans folks, we have the privilege to celebrate, but let us remain vigilant and diligent in the fight for human equality.

The fact the Equality Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives, mostly along partisan lines, and has yet to be heard on the floor of the U.S. Senate signifies how far we still must go. For the second year in a row, there are signs that non-LGBTQ acceptance toward LGBTQ people could be declining, especially among younger people.

The fight for justice

The theme for Oklahoma City’s 2019 Pride parade was, “We ascend from legends and rebels.” (Ben White)

This fight isn’t just about love, it’s about human dignity. Pride isn’t about haughtiness, it is about justice. Do not be fooled. In America, the queer identity is very much a political identity. The very act of living and existing as a queer person is political. When we live in a world that perpetually works against who we are, then our physical existence is a political resistance.

Every day of the year, let us celebrate and honor the forerunners of our fight. Lest we forget the sacrifices they gave us, the lives they laid down, the violence rendered upon them. Each day moving forward, let us live with pride in who we are and how far we’ve come. Yet, we all — allies included — should remain determined to fight on toward how far we must got to be fully recognized in our humanity and justice.

As Alice Walker said: “Please remember, especially in these times of group-think and the right-on chorus, that no person is your friend (or kin) who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow and be perceived as fully blossomed as you were intended.”

J.D. Baker is the special assistant to Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt. He is a former student body president at the University of Oklahoma and is a member of the OU Black Alumni Society. He holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism with a minor in African & African-American studies. He serves on several local boards, including the OU LGBTQ Alumni Society.