Expanded event to feature alumni reunion, community picnic, parade
APRIL 24, 2019 BY
The fourth annual Oxford Pride Week is coming to Oxford April 28-May 5, featuring a variety of events, including some old favorites and some new features throughout the city and University of Mississippi campus.
This year’s event, organized by the Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies and community group OUTOxford, honors the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, an event that served as a catalyst for the gay liberation movement. Celebrating that history will be professors John Howard and Jessica Wilkerson, who specialize in the study of queer history in Mississippi.
Howard, an emeritus professor at King’s College in London, and Wilkerson, UM assistant professor of history and Southern studies, will serve as grand marshals for the 2019 Oxford Pride Parade on May 4.
Oxford Pride Week began in 2016 as LOU Pride Weekend and has continued to grow every year with support from local businesses, the LOU community and both on- and off-campus organizations.
“The number of different groups we have each year is growing,” said Kevin Cozart, operations coordinator at the Isom Center. “Although this event is targeted toward the LGBTQ+ community, probably half or more of the attendees from previous years are our straight allies. So when we call this a community event for the Oxford community, that’s really what we mean it to be.”
Organizers have partnered with The Lyric, Proud Larry’s, OUTGrads, OUTOxford, the UM Pride Network, the Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement, the Oxford Film Festival, the Graduate Oxford and the Oxford and University Police Departments to put together the event.
This year’s festivities will include a few new events.
On Sunday (April 28), Powerhouse Community Arts Center will host the annual LOU Awards Ceremony and “Gayla,” an event organized to celebrate and honor members of the LGBTQ+ community and allies who have made a positive impact on the community.
On May 3, the Ole Miss Alumni Association is collaborating with the LOU community to host the first Ole Miss Alumni LGBTQ Reunion at The Inn at Ole Miss.
Finally, on May 5, the “Out in the Park” community softball game and family picnic is set for Avent Park. This event will feature a softball team from Memphis’ Bluff City Sports Association coming to Oxford to face a team of Ole Miss staff members.
All events are open to the public, including what Cozart considers to be the crown jewel of the festivities, Saturday’s Oxford Pride Parade.
“I think the big thing about the parade is it’s public,” Cozart said. “You can have the shows and you can have the events that are inside venues, but the parade goes right through the heart of Oxford.”
Cozart said his favorite memory of past pride celebrations was during the first parade, when a band was preparing to play inside Proud Larry’s and as the parade went through the Square, the band began playing “When the Saints Go Marching In” to accompany the marchers.
“The roar of the crowd went up, and it was completely unplanned, and just seeing the students’ smiles on their faces and to see our queer students get to really feel like they belong in Oxford was special,” he said. “That’s something you cannot replicate. No program is going to match that moment when they hit the Square and there’s a supportive crowd.”
The events are a boost for LGBTQ+ students at the university, said Sarah Heying, president of OUTGrads, the university’s graduate student LGBTQ+ group.
“The Isom Center works incredibly hard to provide as many opportunities as possible for our LGBTQ+ folks to find their queer family, which can help reduce feelings of isolation and alienation,” she said. “It’s even more important to have opportunities to affirm LGBTQ+ identities here than it is in the big cities that have historically served as gathering points for queer and trans people.”
The Oxford Pride parade regularly features more than 200 participants from a variety of groups and draws a crowd of more than 1,000.
The full schedule of Oxford Pride Week events:
Sunday (April 28)
• OUTGrads and UM Pride Network Present: LOU Gayla and Awards – 6-11 p.m., Powerhouse Community Arts Center. The university’s LGBTQ+ student groups OUTGrads and UM Pride Network present their annual Lafayette-Oxford-University Awards Ceremony and Gayla as the kickoff to Pride Week. Tickets are $5 in advance and $10 at the door. This event is a fundraiser for LGBTQ+ organizations at the university.
This year’s winners are: Gail Stratton and Pat Miller (Inclusion in Community Resources award), Blake Summers and Jonathan Kent Adams (Inclusion in Arts and Entertainment), and Em Gill (Inclusion in Activism).
Thursday (May 2)
• Oxford Film Fest Pride Screening: “Stonewall Uprising” – 6-8 p.m., Lamar Hall, Room 129. Sponsored by Oxford Film Festival, OUTOxford and Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies. A discussion will be held after the film.
• Code Pink: Pride Edition – 9 p.m.-1 a.m., Proud Larry’s. Code Pink Dance Parties are among the most anticipated events on the Square during any given month of the year. These queer parties typically fill up quickly, and feature dance music as well as performances from locals and students. All over 18 are welcome. The cover is $10, but the first 100 guests pay only $7.
Friday (May 3)
• LGBTQ Alumni and Friends Luncheon – Noon, The Inn at Ole Miss, Ballroom A and B. The university and Ole Miss Alumni Association are collaborating with the LOU community to present the first Ole Miss Alumni LGBTQ Reunion. $25 ticket includes a T-shirt and lunch provided by Taylor Grocery Catering.
• 4th Annual Lavender Graduation Ceremony – 4-5:30 p.m., Ole Miss Student Union Ballroom. Lavender Graduation is a cultural celebration that recognizes the achievements and contributions of LGBTQ+ students who have successfully navigated the college experience.
Saturday (May 4)
• Oxford Pride Parade – 1 p.m. line-up, 2 p.m. parade, Oxford-University Depot. The Oxford Pride parade will begin and end at the Depot parking lot. The parade will take Presidential Debate Way to University Avenue, then up to Lamar Boulevard, around the Courthouse Square and back to the Depot. All are welcome to march in the parade or line the route in support.
Registered marchers include: OUTGrads, Blue Suede Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Oxford, Lafayette Dems, Lambda, Lambda Car Club, Oxford Film Festival, Dykes on Bikes, UM Psychological Services Center, Human Rights Campaign and First Regional Library staff. Register online to join.
• Saturday Night Drag! – 7:30 p.m.-1 a.m., The Lyric Oxford. Experience the five decades since stonewall through drag. Students must visit the Lyric in person with their ID to get the special student rate. The Lyric box office is open noon-5 p.m. Wednesday-Friday. Tickets for this fundraising event are available online. Doors open at 7:30 p.m., show starts at 8 and will conclude by 11.
Sunday (May 5)
• Out in the Park: A Softball Game and Family Picnic at Avent Park – 11 a.m.-3 p.m., Avent Park, Join this free community gathering for a softball game, cookout and other family-friendly activities. This event is an opportunity to fellowship with community members and enjoy one of Oxford’s public parks.
Burgers, hot dogs, drinks and watermelon will be provided free of charge. Other refreshments from area vendors will be available for purchase. Arts teacher Todd Shaffer will lead an arts camp for kids.
The Bluff City Sports Association, Memphis’ Gay Sports League, will be sending down the Cotton Row Uniques to play a softball double-header against Oxford’s own Isom J-Hawks.