‘Today we are proud’

LGBT com­mu­nity spreads mes­sage of di­ver­sity at Al­len­town cel­e­bra­tion

The Morning Call - - FRONT PAGE - By Hannah McMul­lan

For the se­cond year in a row, rain­bow flags adorned the Jewish Com­mu­nity Cen­ter in Al­len­town, their colors matched by the clothes and glit­ter-cov­ered faces of the crowds that gath­ered Sun­day to cel­e­brate Le­high Val­ley Pride.

Peo­ple ap­plauded as lo­cal drag en­ter­tain­ers Shar­ron Ann and Carol Ann Hus­bands opened the drag stage with a per­for­mance of “Happy To­gether” by the Tur­tles. The crowd laughed and sang along as the duo danced down the aisle. Later, “RuPaul’s Drag Race” stars Silky Ganache and A’Ke­ria Daven­port took the stage.

Chil­dren played with crafts and en­joyed a Drag Story Hour, while adults played Drag Bingo to sup­port FACT Le­high Val­ley, a non­profit fight­ing against AIDS and HIV.

That was a re­minder of the more se­ri­ous as­pects of the an­nual event, which cel­e­brates the Le­high Val­ley’s LGBT com­mu­nity.

Fol­low­ing speeches from state Health Sec­re­tary Dr. Rachel Levine, who is trans­gen­der, and Shawn Bauscher, the former pres­i­dent of Pride of the Greater Le­high Val­ley, Corinne Good­win of Le­high Val­ley Trans­gen­der Re­nais­sance re­minded the au­di­ence of the im­por­tance of equal rights for all peo­ple, and com­mended the per­sis­tence the LGBT com­mu­nity demon­strated in times of ad­ver­sity.

“We honor ev­ery­one who stands with us — and most of all we cel­e­brate our ac­com­plish­ments,” she said. “Today is the day we should be rev­el­ing in our cul­ture and in our di­ver­sity. Today we are proud.”

She en­cour­aged the com­mu­nity to “go back to work” af­ter the fes­tiv­i­ties ended and con­tinue push­ing past re­sis­tance.

“We are here, we are queer, and we are never, ever giv­ing up,” she said.

For the fes­tiv­i­ties, equal­ity didn’t stop with the LGBT move­ment. Adrian Shanker, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the Bradbury-Sul­li­van LGBT Com­mu­nity Cen­ter, which puts on Pride, said he was ded­i­cated to mak­ing the fes­ti­val as in­clu­sive as pos­si­ble. Ev­ery stage in­cluded an Amer­i­can Sign Lan­guage in­ter­preter, and the first row of seats was re­served for peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties.

The acous­tic stage was des­ig­nated al­co­hol-free to of­fer those in re­cov­ery a com­fort­able spot to en­joy.

“Pride is for ev­ery­one,” Shanker said.

While the fes­ti­val is in its 26th year, this year’s cel­e­bra­tion fea­tured some new­com­ers.

Esther Sam­son of Palmer Town­ship, who was paint­ing faces, said she was ec­static to see the vi­brant setup and was ea­ger to take pic­tures with mas­quer­aded char­ac­ters walk­ing the fair­grounds.

“It’s my first time here, but it’s an awe­some event. I am so ex­cited to be here,” she said.

Bauscher said he was proud to see how the event has changed.

“Le­high Val­ley Pride has grown ev­ery year and I am in awe at the progress it has made,” he said. “Ev­ery day is a proud day.”

Hannah McMul­lan is a free­lance writer for The Morn­ing Call.

PHO­TOS BY SHARON K. MERKEL/SPE­CIAL TO THE MORN­ING CALL

An­dre Walk, of Em­maus, shows his pride at the 26th an­nual Le­high Val­ley Pride Fes­ti­val on Sun­day on the grounds of the Jewish Com­mu­nity Cen­ter in Al­len­town.

Kather­ine Noll, of the Metropoli­tan Com­mu­nity Church of the Le­high Val­ley, wel­comed kids and adults to the chil­dren’s sto­ry­telling area at the Le­high Val­ley Pride Fes­ti­val on Sun­day.

PHO­TOS BY SHARON K. MERKEL/SPE­CIAL TO THE MORN­ING CALL

Ruth Feliz, of Al­len­town, shows her pride at the 26th an­nual Le­high Val­ley Pride Fes­ti­val on Sun­day on the grounds of the Jewish Com­mu­nity Cen­ter in Al­len­town.

Michael Cell, left and Jack Pulcher, both of Philadel­phia, wear rain­bow colors at the fes­ti­val.

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