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Pride South Side debuts over Pride weekend
by Matt Simonette
2019-07-01

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The first Pride South Side was held the weekend of June 28-30 at various locations, giving residents and visitors an alternative or additional option to visiting the North Side over the course of Pride weekend.

About 700 persons had RSVP'd for the June 29 portion of the event, an all-day festival outside the DuSable Museum, according to organizers. The festival featured a number of musical performances as well as talks pertinent to community members.

Lead organizer Jared Lewis said the idea for Pride South Side arose late last year, but organizing really went into overdrive just a few months back.

"We doubled and tripled down, and really made it happen," Lewis said, adding that many of the performers were "friends of friends who were local. We are a community but what we aren't is sufficiently organized. So this was a way to organize people who are 'communing' with one another but are disparate from one another in odd and interesting ways. None of these people are unreachable. They are all people where I could call somebody who can call somebody."

Bronzeville-based vendor Peter Gaona, who was selling his ReformedSchool brand merchandise and greeting cards, said, "It's important that we have spaces on the South Side as gay people to hang out and have events, so we don't have to leave our own neighborhoods to celebrate Pride—or any other day, really."

Another vendor, psychologist Monica Lyn, said that the event was a good opportunity for her to help spread the message about mental health services.

"I decided to come here because I thought this was the perfect venue to reach queer people of color, which is exactly what my demographic is, and who my clients are, and they are the people I want to educate about mental health and connect with affirming services," she explained.

Brandon Maurice Wright of Chicago Black Gay Men's Caucus said, "This event means tangibility, access and community firsthand, especially for the South Side. It also means that all spaces are open for our constituents. It means so much for the Caucus to be here since we serve so many people on the South Side. Just to have our organization here, and see other organizations who are part of our cohort, is amazing, and we are happy to be a part of it."

Co-organizer Adrienne Irmer said, "We're all really proud of how this came together as a collective. … There was a dearth of spaces for Black and Latinx folks, especially youth who are queer-identified, to commonly celebrate their identities, especially during Pride weekend. A lot of South Side youth live in areas that are transportation deserts—it's hard to get up north and its cost-prohibitive. In realizing this, we wanted to put together something that would allow anyone in the "Southland" who has a queer identity, or is an ally, or has a family member with a queer identity to come and have fun, dance, have a couple of drinks, eat some good food and really celebrate."

Pride South Side sponsors included AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Lyft, Chicago Park District and South Side Help Center, among others.


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