Nashville Pride recognizes leaders and volunteers

Each year at the Curb Records Pride Pre Party, now an annual event that kicks off Pride weekend, the leadership of Nashville Pride honors “those in the community that are integral in helping bring together the annual celebration.” This year’s award winners are a diverse group of LGBT community members and allies, all of whom have had a significant impact on Nashville Pride.

The Mark Middleton/Bianca Paige Pride Volunteer Award is an honor bestowed on “a Nashville Pride volunteer who embodies Mark Middleton’s passion for and commitment to the GLBT community and Nashville’s annual Pride Festival.” This year, two awards were presented, the first to long-time, dedicated volunteer, Allan Gonce, and the second to Covenant of the Cross, which was accepted by Pastor Greg Bullard.

The Mark Manasco Community Service Award is presented to “a member of the GLBT community who demonstrates Manasco’s devotion to community service and GLBT organizations.” Greg Cason, as well as Jim Schmidt and Joe Wooley, were honored for their tireless work in Nashville’s LGBT community and beyond.

Philanthropic Business Awards were presented to BAM! Social Business’ Phil Cobucci and The Chef and I’s Erica Rains. Cobucci served as Nashville Pride’s director of PR and marketing, and The Chef and I has provided catering services not only for Pride but for other LGBT organizations and events as well.

Rising Star Awards, honoring up-and-coming volunteers recognized by Pride as future leaders, were given to Derrick Lachney, founder of the Hot Mess dodgeball, kickball, and volleyball leagues in Nashville, and to Shaun Arroyo, who has served in numerous leadership positions in local organizations, particularly trans groups, including TVALS.

Mayor Karl Dean and Pastor Stan Mitchell of GracePointe Church each received an Ally Award for their support of the LGBT community. Mayor Dean has, throughout his tenure, supported initiatives that brought greater rights to LGBT people in Nashville. Mitchell and GracePointe Church were thrown into the national spotlight when the congregation decided to affirm LGBT members and offer them full rights and privileges. Mitchell has since presided over at least one same-sex marriage.

In what was probably the most moving speech given by an award recipient, Mitchell said, “It’s humbling and it’s almost embarrassing…. You should never have needed an ally. We should have never been in this place. I should have been here a long time ago. The Christian church should have been here a long time ago. And for all of you who grew up in Christian communities and left that and think you no longer believe … if there is a god, he will shake your hand one day and say, ‘Thank you for taking up for me.’ Because your departure was not an act of unfaith, it was an act of faith, because you knew we were wrong. I wish we wouldn’t have been wrong. I am so grateful, I am so thankful. I don’t know how a kid tunneled his way out of homophobic rural Arkansas, except that people like you … humanized this story.”

Mitchell recalled how a man named Antonio helped his congregation begin the conversation three years ago. Forced to take an official position, GracePointe followed the standard line. “We said, ‘They can’t lead, they can’t sing. We’ll take their money, you can do grunt work but you can’t lead.’ People like Antonio couldn’t sing. Instead of leaving bitter, instead of moving off and starting over, he stayed with us, and he kept his love, and his tears, and his creativity, and his kindness, and he put a face on this. And it broke us down. And that’s the face that will break all of us down eventually. We have a long way to go. Forty-seven years after a young man died on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, forty-seven years after he stood on the mountain top and saw the promised land, forty-seven years later and we’re still taking Confederate flags down over state buildings. We have a long way to go but we’re going to get there!”

Mitchell and the other award recipients represent the future. After marriage equality, there are many legal issues still to be solved. But there are also great social divides, and leaders, allies, and volunteers like those who best exemplify the spirit of Pride are precisely the kind of people required to carry on the work, pass laws, and break down social barriers. *O&AN* congratulates all of this year’s honorees.


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