3rd Annual Murfreesboro Pride Festival Brings Supporters Together
If asked what color someone associates with The Boro, the answer would most likely be blue—True Blue, the official color of MTSU. However, on September 8, 2018, it would have been the beautiful array of colors belonging to the LGBT community.
Unofficially, everything kicked off Friday night at The Boro Bar and Grill, an establishment well known for its support of the rainbow, with a golden drag performance.
The actual day of the event began early, but truly got started with a march of pride around the historic, former, state capital building located on the square.
Autumn Martin, with her mother Sheila at her side, arrived just in time to participate. “We got there just in time for the march, and really liked that we walked alongside Zac Woodward [from 107.5 The River’s “Woody & Jim Show”].”
This was only one aspect of the event the Martins’ enjoyed. “We liked that there were a lot of kids and animals running around. It was full of loveness (sic).”
Autumn went on to explain what made the event truly special for them. “We were there to support our friends, family, loved ones, the LGBT community, but most importantly displaying our love and support with hugs and kisses made us happy. There was even a hug booth.”
Autumn exclaimed, “I can’t wait to go again next year, and bring more of my best friends with me.”
Festival committee member Leslie Russell Yost, who was very proud of the diversity represented, said, “This year’s event was a great snapshot of our community. LGBTQA [folks] were all out in attendance, and all communed with one another as neighbors.” Continuing on she stated, “The TEP (Tennessee Equality Project) and The BoroPride planning committees were thrilled with the turnout and support of the community.” Leslie estimates attendance was over 4,000, up by 1,500 compared to last year.
The executive director of the TEP, Chris Sanders said, “The large number of youth and college students impressed me this year.” He added, “When I talked to people my age, they noted that they never would have guessed that their home town would host a Pride festival on the square… That tells me the event meets a real need in the community.”
Entertainment coordinator George W. Manus Jr. explained, “The most surprising thing about Pride this year was the amount of families and children that attended to lift us up in love.”
He noted that the large presence of religious groups, in addition to other community vendors, may have had the largest impact on the turnout.
“We did have more churches than I expected, and they were very supportive.” He added, ‘There was no hatred or negative dogma against our community. They were more liberal churches, but it was still nice to be accepted and supported.’
Pastor of Open Table Christian Church, George Cunningham, elaborates on the importance his organization places on laying down social barriers. “We are an open and affirming church. We’re a congregation made up of a wide variety, and just as our name suggests our table is always open.”
Cunningham made the reason his church sponsored a booth for the last three years very clear. “Unfortunately, many churches are unwelcoming, and we think it’s important that everyone (not just the GLBT sector,) see there are Christian Churches that don’t run with the pack. Although, we’ve found it is taking a lot of time and love to remove the black eye created by the intolerance preached by a majority of religious organizations.”
Nashville residents Bob Colon and his boyfriend Josh made the trip down to attend the shindig for the first time this year. Colon spoke with Pastor Cunningham, and was surprised to find that, ‘This and other churches were more focused on supporting us and LGBT community organizations.’
Furthermore, Colon was impressed with the different approach Murfreesboro has at its celebration. “It was more intimate, where Nashville’s event has become so commercialized. This one was more free and open.”
Mr. Colon expressed that he was impressed for many reasons. “I was surprised with the crowd, and that so many people were there.” But it wasn’t just the large crowd, but what was missing, “There was a strong lack of protesters. I expected more of them as Rutherford County isn’t known for being the most liberal… The few that were there were kept on a very tight leash, and there was no violence.”
George Manus agreed. ‘The lack of protesters shows that society is heading in the right direction.’ Manus went on to applaud the protection provided by law enforcement, “It was amazing! You could barely tell they were there, but you could feel an incredible sense of safety and security.”
Leslie Russell Yost added, “MPD are a welcome presence at BoroPride. They protect and serve with no prejudice. We enjoy the relationships we’ve fostered with our officers.”
Those there on duty at the event seemed to have enjoyed their work that day. “Many were taking photos with entertainers,” Manus said, reporting that a large number of officers also took time to mingle, and enjoy the entertainment.
The drag performances that followed the musical guests topped off the entertainment for the night. Manus being the coordinator behind the success of the show found the hard part of his position was limiting the number of performers to only 10 slots.
All of it was made possible by the MTSU students who provided technical support, however, Manus explained: “What really, really amazed and impressed me was the level of professionalism they applied in preparing the lighting and sound equipment. They were an excellent crew!”
Beyond excellent entertainment, community support, high attendance, and commercial vendors, public service organizations onsite provided free items during the celebration.
Dwayne Jenkins, director of My House (an LGBT outreach organization), said the group’s volunteers distributed over 1,000 safer sex kits that contained condoms & lubricant. Additionally, they administered 54 HIV tests and provided information on PrEP and the Nashville CARES AIDS Walk.
Contributing to the success of the event were the sponsors, vendors, event t-shirt sales, volunteers, event committee, and most importantly those out there getting their Pride on. Without their support BoroPride wouldn’t exist.
If you weren’t able to take part in BoroPride 2018, and I hope to see you there in 2019 for one heck of a time!