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OKC Pride brings community together to celebrate diversity, love and equality

(L-R)  Grand Marshall Bob Lemon, rides with his son Chrys Lemon, and Harold Watson in the OKC Pride Parade while daughter Robyn Lemon Sellers walks alongside waving a Pride flag.  Photo by Darla Shelden
(L-R) Grand Marshall Bob Lemon, rides with his son Chrys Lemon, and Harold Watson in the OKC Pride Parade while daughter Robyn Lemon Sellers walks alongside waving a Pride flag. Photo by Darla Shelden

By Darla Shelden
Contributing Writer

A weekend of festivities themed “The New Normal,” celebrated OKC Pride by bringing the Oklahoma City community together to support diversity, love and equality.

“OKC Pride is honored to organize the state’s largest diversity celebration,” said Matt Harney, OKC Pride Board member & Education Committee Chair. “We are thrilled by the success of our event this year and are already excited about next year.”

“The planning for the Block Party, Festival, and Parade were months in the making. This year our Block Party night wasn’t originally scheduled,” said Harney. “However, after a series of community-wide meetings, we felt there was an earnest desire to extend Pride’s festivities.”

Block Party headliner Vanity Halston said, “This year Jeremy Crites (OKC Pride President) really listened to what everybody wanted in the community. They brought the block party back and I really wanted it to be spectacular. Being the last act to go on, it was a great kickoff to OKC Pride.”

New this year was the Love is Love marriage equality rally and commitment ceremony held at the Myriad Gardens. Officiated by Pastor Neill Spurgin of Expressions Church, couples turned out to publicly demonstrate their support and solidarity for legalizing love.

Spurgin said, “The event gave these couples a way to commit their love in front of their families and friends, and in front of their community, meaning Oklahoma City, not just the gay community.”

Metro residents Alan Everley and Jeremy Cloud carried a photo of Everley’s mother and father, both of whom have passed, along with a wooden box.
“The box held my mom’s ashes,” said Everley. “Even if only in spirit, I wanted them to be there for such a special day.”

“For Jeremy and I, attending the rally and ceremony was a way to stand up before friends and family and declare our love,” said Everley. “A way to join our lives and hearts publicly, despite the lack of legal standing for LGBT couples in Oklahoma.”

Oklahoma City residents Kristen Perkins and Cheri Bolz also attended the rally.

“To me it was one step closer to marriage equality for Gay Oklahomans,” said Perkins. “We have been together 8 years and feel that we deserve the same rights as all other Americans”.

Also attending were Jack Smith and his partner Dan John, who have been together for 45 years.

“It really brought me to tears,” said Spurgin. “All the couples wanted to do is show that they’re happy, they love each other, and their relationships are strong. They wanted the people to see that their love is real.”

The daylong Pride Festival followed, featuring artists, music, vendors, social organizations, food booths and a children’s area.

“The Pride Festival on Saturday is an event that continues to grow,” said Harney. “We had as many exhibitors as ever. The combination of a surge in community partners and the dynamic venue along Film Row proved to be a hit.”

Ominous skies and threatening tornados loomed across the state as the 2013 Pride Parade stepped off on Classen Boulevard.

Harney said, “I was incredibly impressed at the size of the crowds despite the severe weather. I think this shows how much Pride means to so many.”
Harold Watson’s familiar red ‘57 T-Bird convertible carried the parade’s Grand Marshall, gay rights activist Bob Lemon. Accompanying Bob, were his son Chrys, from Washington D.C. and daughter Robyn Lemon Sellers from Oklahoma City.

“It was one of the biggest honors of my life to get to make some new friends and get reacquainted with a lot of old ones,” said Lemon. “It was a delightful event.”

Hard driving winds and light rain couldn’t dampen the spirits of parade participants or those who turned out to watch the 26th annual event, which included nearly 50 floats.

“Our ultimate goal was to extend acceptance, show love for each other, and celebrate ourselves and our community,” Harney said. “I want to express my deep appreciation for the many dedicated volunteers who spent hours in the heat, wind, and rain to help OKC Pride.”

“The entire weekend was a thrill,” said Harney. “We simply could not have done it without them.”

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