Erie's First Pride Rally a Huge Success

Family Portrait Fills Perry Square jpg

Over 300 people showed up for Erie's first ever Pride Rally Saturday, October 10th from noon to 4PM on Perry Square. This was the first public gathering of GLBT people and their families, friends and supporters in local history.

Sue & Julie from BYKOTA, the GLBT friendly Christian spirituality group.BYKOTA Table jpg Signs reading "Pride", "Straight But Not Narrow", "Come Out", "Celebrate Diversity", "Even My Dog Is Gay", "Dyke", "Queen", "Closets Are For Clothes", "Some of My Best Friends Are Straight."Picket Signs jpg The Allegheny College group selling National Coming Out Day shirts.Allegheny College Table jpg

Text by Michael K. Mahler, Photos by Mike Miller 10/98

Erie Community Pride Organization, the group sponsoring the event, began planning at their initial meeting this past January. All 3 local network affiliate television stations and both editions of the Erie Times-News included coverage. Local radio station WLKK had coverage the day before and the day of the Pride Rally on talk shows. A reporter from local Christian radio station WCTL was present at the rally and spoke with the organizer. Dan Conley filmed the event and Al Richardson will be shortly editing it and getting it onto Community Access Television.

Elected officials attending and speaking included a representative from Congressman Phil English, Erie County Council member Joy Greco, Erie City Council member Rubye Jenkins-Husband, who once again reaffirmed her stance of GLBT inclusiveness and celebrating diversity. Mrs. Jenkins-Husband was briefly interviewed by WJET TV-24. She also delivered greetings from the Mayor's office. Openly gay Presidential Appointee Jono Smith flew up from Washington to read an address from President Clinton. Smith applauded Erie for holding such an event and reminded us how important it is for gay people to get involved in light of recent events, such as the gay bashing that just happened in Laramie, Wyoming. Letters were on display that had been received from Gov. Tom Ridge, Sen. Arlen Specter, State Senator Jane Earll, State Representatives Italo Cappabianca, and Linda Bebko-Jones, who had planned to attend but was unable to do so due to her husband's battle with cancer.

The first speaker was Greg Rabb, who ran for Jamestown NY City Council last year as an openly gay Democratic candidate. Rabb spoke of how, during the election, many voters told him that they would vote for him because if he was willing to be honest about his sexual orientation then he must be honest about his political views. Rabb received 3,200 votes, only 200 short of winning a seat and plans to run again next year. He also feels optimistic about winning a seat.

Long time friend of our community Abby Conley spoke of her experiences riding in the float that was rebuilt after being vandalized just before Erie's Bicentennial Parade in 1995. The four people riding in the cab were afraid for their very lives after the committee had received death threats. They were overjoyed to receive standing ovations and thumbs up all along the parade route. Conley was also serving at the time as Commissioner for the Bicentennial Committee and has also run for Erie City Council. Abby also left us with five words to remember so we know what to do whenever faced with oppression or bigotry because of being gay, lesbian or whatever. She told us to proudly "STAND FOR WHO I AM."

Presenters speaking from a specifically Christian viewpoint included Sr. Mary Louise St. John, OSB. Sr. St. John reminded us that Moses had his closet, too, being a Hebrew living as an Egyptian. Sue Laurie, a Methodist pastoral assistant who is the founder and coordinator for local GLBT Christian group Be Ye Kind One To Another (BYKOTA), talked about allies needing to come out and speak for GLBT rights. Speaking from a Jewish perspective was Rabbi John Bush of Temple Anshe Hesed.

Rita Kilbane and Heather Malobisky performed a few scenes from Kilbane's original dramatic piece, Silent Inequities, about lesbians and HIV.

Youth perspectives were represented by Jeremy Snyder, contact and cofounder of local youth group Closet Culture and fellow Closet Culture member Mark Ricker. Mark reminded us of the crisis that confronts gay youth from unsupportive friends, family and schools that still allow anti-gay prejudice and how much we need to help support the next generation of GLBT people to prevent gay-bashing and suicide.

Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG)-Erie coordinator Elaine Hill spoke as an activist and as the mother of a gay son. Elaine called for not just gay and lesbian people but their friends and family to come out, and to confront bigotry.

Friends from the Heart coordinator Deb Monohon Cleer discussed her group's volunteer support for people living with HIV/AIDS.

The event concluded with musician Frank Singer of One World Tribe playing a mellow guitar beneath a gently waving rainbow flag as the crowd slowly dispersed. Many collected signs as souvenirs. Some people made plans to talk later with newly met friends. Others stayed to help clean up.

About 120 people were in the Family Portrait. This represents the largest number of people that have agreed to be photographed during a GLBT event here in Erie.

Apart from 2 fundamentalists who principally harangued BYKOTA coordinator Sue Laurie, there were virtually no negative incidents. No one was verbally or physically assaulted.

There were a staggering amount of people who worked to make this event a success! We would like to thank everyone who showed up; all of our speakers and performers; Helen for being stage manager, making 50/50 tickets and countless other tasks; Abby Conley; Georgia Carpenter; Ross Berrier and Scapers; Tom Fourspring; Gary Yuhas & Dave Mulholland; Ro; Heidi Oldaker; Jeff Hill; Robert Tredway; Michael Marshall; Larry Sawdy; Char Markiewicz and the Erie City Parks Department; Dan Conley; Al Richardson; Sue Mack & Serenity Hall; Deb Spilko; Micheal Miller; Jerry Trambley; Womynspace for making signs; Barry for security; Grise for handling the sound system and the Roadhouse Theatre for volunteering their space as a backup site in case of rain. We apologize for the folks we have doubtless forgotten.

Thank you's also to musician Greg Ropp and Erie Sisters member Diane who planned to attend but were unable due to family and personal emergencies, respectively.

Many thanks again to everyone! It is expected that this will become an annual tradition!

And Finally, lest we forget, a memorial to those who could not attend.
May they live forever in our memory and be fewer in the nearest possible future.
Blessed be.

AIDS Memorial jpg


Also view photos here.

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