By Marco Davis, PQ Monthly
Pride means many things to many people. Pride in one’s appearance, pride in one’s integrity, pride in one’s family, community and/or job. Pride gives one that sense that all is right in the world, and one can step out and forward with one’s head held high; knowing that one is walking one’s own truth. Pride knows no bounds or age, pride can show up at any given moment and sometimes be taken away by the dark cloud of those that wish to keep us down. It is, at those times, that it is essential to stand as a community to strengthen our pride when standing alone is not enough.
It is with this spirit that we, the Lower Columbia Q Center (LCQC) in Astoria, Oregon; oldest settlement west of the Mississippi River, approach our Inaugural Gay Pride Celebration June 9-11, 2016. Several of our community’s voices have stood together and worked as a team to bring our Pride out and proud!! Thinking not only of our voices, but the voices of others in our community that may want to participate, but don’t necessarily know how.
I recall my first Pride experience in Manhattan, 1994. I was terrified. I had images of what I always had (by always, I meant since 1991, when I had my first taste of gay) heard happened at Pride celebrations. In my conservative Catholic mind, I saw free love and bright swirling colors and life and laughter with abandon, and it scared me to death, maybe even a foot further back in the closet. Could I stand with my people and be seen in my glory? Can I own who I am? The reality was that I was too crippled by my fear to participate, so I stood in the crowd, on the side of 5th Ave, as the proud bright and glowing people walked by with heads high and hearts open as their hands waved and held onto the Pride Flag that stretched blocks long. My heart yearning to step out and grab on and march with the same pride glow; my fear yelling “NO NO NO NO NO!!!!” at the back of my head, my heart reaching, my mind retreating.
Many years later, while at school at the University of Oregon, I went to the Pride gathering at Alton Baker Park, and while a bit more a part of this community, I still found myself lurking in the shadows, not feeling strong enough to love the gay part of myself. Why? Why is it that conditioning can keep one from embracing and owning one’s own truth? Why do we believe we are not worth the joy, the celebration?
Since moving home, to Astoria, in 2008, I have begun to own the depth and height of who I am and how I move through the world. I recognize that I take space, and when I allow myself to be whole, I shine and vibrate and float along the road. Every time I walk out of the door and into town, I remind myself to be true, to walk with my honesty and not shrink away no matter how uncomfortable I may get; because I am a native Astorian, I do belong here.
I walk to work, which is on the east end of town, so I have my own pride parade every day. And I, generally, love it. I say usually because for as many honks and waves and hugs I get, I get the same in glares, middle fingers, slow drive by’s and loogies. They are less than in years past, but they are still there. More often than not, they are from out of town visitors throwing their fears and conservative beliefs at me, not realizing that I don’t care what they think of me.
One of my faults, drawbacks, strengths that get in the way of personal growth, the way I was conditioned is that I do care what people think. I do not like to offend people, and my presence offends many. I can empty a hot tub just by walking up to it, I’ve tested my theory on many occasions. I have had people cross the street so they don’t have to walk by me; people have left the Columbian Cafe, where I was a cook for a very long time because they didn’t want to catch gay from eating my food. I’ve had people I’ve known my whole life does not want to serve me when I walk into their businesses or refuse to make eye contact because they don’t want their people to know that they know me.
This past year, I have checked people on their actions with me, and have had to cut a few folks free, which hurts my heart, but I am not going to force someone to be my friend or like me; dealt with that too much as a fat kid. I have always been the last picked, or wouldn’t be picked if that was an option; so I found my own group to play with, and we are a team and we work together to build each other up and accept one another no matter how different or odd we may be.
Living in a small town, it becomes necessary to recognize that we are not all the same and even if someone is different than how we picture our group in the world to be. We embrace them, each other because we are brave enough to live our truth out loud and in the public eye without shame or lowered head. It is with that pride that we have worked so steadfastly at bringing Astoria, the beauty of our Pride.
Our Pride Celebration is going to look a little something like this:
Thursday, June 9: KALA, 8 PM: The Madness of Lady Bright, a one act reader’s theater piece
10 PM: Big Fat Gay Movie Night at the Columbian Theater
Friday, June 10: If you are coming for the weekend and will be around during the day, there are many hikes and trails and beaches and rivers and streams to admire, shops to shop, food to eat and places to see.
7 PM Doors open for the Gala at the Historic Astoria Armory, home of the LCQC. Join us for drinks and appetizers. There will be 2 AIDS Memorial Quilts on Display.
8 PM show starts with local singers and drags performers from our own Dragalution, guest artists from Portland, Shitney Houston, Annie Depressant and Annya Allnight; the Q Center Qchoir will sing a few songs for us and Seven Cake Candy will be playing a show for us at the end getting us all up and dancing the night away.
Saturday, June 11: 2 PM Waterfront foot and bike parade starting under the big bridge at the foot of Bay Street heading east to 11th street. The grandstand will be at Buoy Beer Co. and Emceed by the fabulous Poison Waters and Dida DeAngelis. Rally at 11th street and an afternoon to explore and celebrate.
6 PM Rainbow crawl for the 2nd Saturday Art Walk, be sure to hit up KALA for a Queer Art Show curated by Mark Woolley.
6 PM at AAMC Hip Hop dance workshop, all ages, and levels taught by Nathan Boozer of Work Dance Company from Eugene.
9 PM Pride Jubilation Dance Party with DJ Ali Aht at AAMC, all ages and free!
9PMish Lesbian DJ Dance Party at Kala
There are also many other events happening around town that local businesses that support our community are going to do to help to add the celebration and joy!
I think one of my favorite things about Astoria’s Inaugural Pride is that we will have rainbow flags hung through downtown and business are joining in and showing their support by decorating and celebrating with us. We actually do live in the most magical little town!!!!
We will have our Pride Headquarters at the Annex at the Columbian Cafe, open on the weekend starting in May, answer any questions, sell you an Astoria Pride t-shirt, share in conversation and give tips on what is fun to do in town and the area. Check us out on our website, which is still being built but up so we can share Pride information, at www.lcqcatoria.org or like our Astoria Pride Facebook page. We are so excited to share our pride with you and to accept your love and support along the way. We are all one! We are family, each and every one of us! Astoria Pride lives on and out!
Hugs from the Coast,