By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – The month of June is recognized across America and around the world as LGBTQ Pride Month to commemorate the Stonewall riots, which occurred in New York City at the end of June 1969. Several events will take place in Oklahoma City to celebrate Pride Month this year.
On Thursday, June 1, the 5th Annual Red Rooftop Party sponsored by AIDS Walk of Oklahoma City will be held on the Cardinal Engineering Rooftop Patio, 1015 N. Broadway, from 7 – 10 p.m. Tickets are $25. For more information, call 405-673-3786.
On June 2, Sonja Martinez, this year’s OKC Pride Parade Grand Marshall, will kick off Pride Month with her Sonja & Friends Show at Partners Too, 2807 NW 36th Street, starting at 9 p.m. Performing with Martinez will be Roxie Hart, Miss Gay USofA; Chez Redmond; and Shae Porter. For reservations call, 405-602-2030.
The 7th Annual Equality Run, Shaun Kamiko Memorial will begin at 8 am on Saturday, June 17 at Myriad Botanical Gardens in downtown Oklahoma City. For details and to register, visit FreedomOklahoma.com.
This year OKC Pride Weekend will be held June 23-25 with events taking place on the 39th Street Strip at 39th & N. Pennsylvania Avenue. Festivities will include a free outdoor concert and Block Party on Friday June 23, a two-day Arts Festival, Saturday and Sunday, June 24 and 25, closing with the ever-popular OKC Pride Parade on Sunday evening.
The Friday night Block Party is an open-air concert featuring live music acts beginning at 8 p.m. on the 39th Street “Strip” between N Pennsylvania and Youngs Blvd.
This year’s Pride Festival will be held on Saturday, June 24 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday, June 25 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The festival will feature booths from a variety of organizations, including regional artists, activists organizations, businesses as well as local food trucks set up along the Strip.
In addition, the Family Festival at Expressions Community Church will take place on Saturday from 12 to 6 p.m.
Marking the 30th year for the OKC Pride Parade on Sunday, June 25, the 2017 theme is “OKC Pride, 30 Years of Resistance.” Over 100 parade entries celebrating diversity in Oklahoma will make their way down Northwest 39th Street from Classen to Youngs Boulevard. Floats, vehicles and walking groups will line up on the southbound lane of N. Classen between NW 46th and 39th Streets, beginning at 4 p.m. All entries must be registered by June 23 and have a designated parade captain as a point of contact for security.
The parade will step off at 6 p.m. and travel south on Classen Blvd., turning west on 39th Street to Youngs Blvd. Businesses, non-profits, youth groups, and social organizations should register soon to secure the most desirable placement, said organizers.
This year’s Pride Parade Grand Marshall, Oklahoma City performance artist Sonja Martinez, is well known for organizing her Annual Christmas AIDS Benefit held at The COPA to support The Winds House, a facility that provides housing for individuals living with HIV and AIDS.
After losing several close friends to the AIDS, Martinez began her work to help support AIDS charities in 1991. After Jackie and Barbara Cooper lost their son to the disease they founded the Red Tie Night Gala. Martinez decided to start a smaller benefit focusing on the gay community and held in an established gay venue. She began by hosting a dinner show at Oklahoma City’s Gushers Restaurant inviting other local singers to perform with her. To date, Sonja’s Annual Christmas Benefit has raised over $171,000 for the AIDS cause. The 27th annual Christmas holiday show will be held in early December.
As a result of her many fundraisers and generosity toward the gay community, Martinez has been awarded numerous honors including the prestigious Red Tie Night Richard May Award established by the Oklahoma AIDS Care Fund, the Cimarron Alliance Bill Rogers Lifetime Achievement Award and the Miss Gay Oklahoma Organization Lifetime Achievement Award. In 1984, Sonja became the first Ms. Gay Oklahoma and in 2012 Sonja and her wife Dee were Grand Marshals for the OGRA (Oklahoma Gay Rodeo Association) rodeo in Oklahoma City
“I am so honored to be recognized by the community I love so much. Without their years of love and support, I would not have had the successes I have had,” Martinez said. “I want to thank OKC Pride for the privilege of being the 2017 Pride Parade Grand Marshall and for their efforts made through the years to raise awareness and support for inclusion and diversity in the Oklahoma City community.”
For updates about other Pride Week events, visit okcpride.org.