The annual Pride festival marks one of the biggest weekends of the year for Savannah’s LGBT community, when thousands of people will gather in Forsyth Park on Saturday for a day of fun, live entertainment and celebration.
“This is pretty much just a social opportunity for all the different diverse groups to come out and have a good time,” says Heather Byars, the director of this year’s event. “This is an opportunity for us to just be and give thanks to everybody who is accepting and supportive for different events throughout the year and for allowing us to have the freedoms that we do.”
Because the date for the event fell on Sept. 11 this year, the idea of freedom will play an important role in this year’s theme, alongside the more traditional themes of unity and diversity.
“Because the date is Sept. 11, it makes us think about our military, those who serve, or who have served, for our freedom of speech, the freedom of press, the personal freedoms that we all should be entitled to and are entitled to, and keeping us a free country,” says Byars.
The day long event will feature carnival rides, games, live music from Blue Eyed Jane and Juan Cezar and the Sex Kittens, along with cabaret performances, talks by local politicians and organizations and more.
Although the Pride event is more party than politics, with a lot equality issues in the news both locally and nationally, from the battle over Proposition 8 in California, to the recent assault on Kieran Daly by two Marines who claim he winked at them, some members of the local LGBT community want to make sure that activism isn’t forgotten amidst all the fun.
Jesse Morgan and Laura Cahill have organized Savannah’s first ever “Queer Power March” to take place on Friday night, gathering at Johnson Square for a rally followed by the march through downtown.
“Our main goal is to show people different forms of activism that they can be involved in to empower citizens of Savannah to become fierce activists in terms of the LGBTQ equality movement,” says Morgan.
He and Cahill organized a rally in front of City Hall in May of this year to help raise awareness about the need for domestic partnership benefits for city employees, among other topics.
“We’re positive city council will move in the right direction in terms of granting us those rights, but they haven’t yet,” says Morgan.
Court hearings for Christopher Stanzel and Keil Cronauer, the two Marines charged with assaulting Kieran Daly in June, are scheduled for the day before the rally. In the wake of news that neither will be charged with a hate crime under federal law, another issue that will be discussed is Georgia’s lack of an effective hate crime law.
Daly, along with Travis Mclain, who was the victim of an attack in 2005, will both be marching.
Prior to the march, the rally will include local and national speakers, including Evelyn Thomas, a well–known advocate for ending “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” who hit headlines earlier this year after she and a group of people handcuffed themselves to the White House fence in protest of the policy.
Also speaking will be Derrick Martin, the Georgia high schooler who battled to take his same sex date to prom last spring.
After considerable outreach to organizations around the Southeast and with an influx of people for the Pride events, rally organizers expect a sizeable turnout.
“Seeing us march down the street will create a visual that we’re a community,” says Morgan. “We do deserve our rights and we are out in large numbers to march for equality and acceptance.”
‘Queer Power March’
When: Friday, September 10 at 6 p.m.
Where: Starts in Johnson Square
11th Annual Pride Festival
When: Saturday, September 11 at noon
Where: Forsyth Park