I would like to thank Wisconsin Gazette for including PrideFest-related articles in some editions before the festival, especially the article about our organization’s volunteerism. There was also a mention of the LGBT entertainers showcased at PrideFest. Many of them come from around the country and the world simply for exposure at our festival.
But I take to task WiG’s view that PrideFest didn’t do enough or anything political. It also cited a blank Web site history page.
PrideFest’s very presence at Henry W. Maier Festival Park is a political statement unto itself. Numerous people, from Milwaukee and from around the country, have told me that PrideFest should look at other venues to hold our event, because of the costs incurred using these grounds. I have to educate them about PrideFest’s history. Our community came together to save the festival and the use of these grounds. By being there, PrideFest becomes a significant part of the wider community of ethnic festivals. This is extremely important, socially and politically, because it places PrideFest and the LGBT community at an equal level with all the other diverse communities in our state.
However, PrideFest is not a political entity. The community has other organizations for that. PrideFest is an organization that builds the platform for others to utilize and express the LGBT community’s full concerns and constructs. These include the political and historical.
WiG must have missed our opening ceremony, or simply neglected to mention it in the editorial. The ceremony included, among the many presentations, the unveiling of the U.S. Postal Service’s PrideFest pictorial cancellation and the account of how it came about through the leadership of Milwaukee LGBT Community Center executive director Maggi Cage. The presence of Milwaukee postmaster Charlie Miller to unveil the cancellation, as well as the post office’s staffing of a booth at PrideFest to cancel items to mail, recognized the importance and relevance of Milwaukee’s LGBT community. PrideFest also produced post cards and a unique postage stamp of our own. These are political achievements.
In recognition of decades of service to our community’s health needs, the PrideFest Medal for Community Service was presented to the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin and BESTD Clinic. This recognition was also bestowed on Mark Mariucci, publisher of QUEST, for his long-term service to Wisconsin’s LGBT community. The Castaways MC and the Wisconsin Rainbow Alliance of the Deaf received certificates for their many years of volunteer service to PrideFest.
During the Opening Ceremony, Diverse & Resilient’s Brenda Coley spoke about PrideFest’s Health & Wellness (H&W) area’s emphasis on HIV testing. She described the renewed outreach that PrideFest’s H&W area implemented this year in response to Milwaukee’s increase of HIV cases. This is a socially and politically important act.
The history project is an undertaking by individual community members under the guidance of SAGE Milwaukee. A history display has been part of our celebration for years. PrideFest purchased the materials needed to create the exhibit in the Arts and Culture Building. Numerous panels showed hundreds of photos of our past events. Included were images of Pride balls and parades, softball tournaments, AIDS Walks and much more. A separate SAGE display with photos and biographical texts gave tribute to our early LGBT activists. Their contributions are part of our legacy and honored as such. Also in the Art & Culture Building, the UWM LGBT Archive presented information about its holdings.
The blank page of the Web site was an unfortunate omission due to a change in Web providers and developers. They are also volunteers. PrideFest will address this and find a solution.
Ultimately, more than 30,000 people attended PrideFest 2010. They enjoyed top comedy and musical entertainment, art, theatre, a volleyball tournament, belly dancing, family programs and religious services. They explored our H&W area, got tested for HIV, danced and celebrated the great strides our Milwaukee LGBT community has made.
Those facts are worthy of an editorial.