By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – The OKC Pride Parade was deemed another huge success as it closed a weekend of festivities celebrating diversity and equality in the metro. The 2017 OKC Pride Weekend was themed “OKC Pride, 30 Years of Resistance,”
The month of June is recognized across America and around the world as LGBT Pride Month to commemorate the Stonewall riots, which occurred in New York City at the end of June 1969.
OKC Pride Weekend, held on the 39th Street Strip at 39th & N. Pennsylvania Avenue, included a free outdoor concert and Block Party on Friday June 23, a two-day Arts Festival, Saturday and Sunday, June 24 and 25, and it closed with the ever-popular OKC Pride Parade on Sunday evening.
The Friday night Block Party, a free open-air concert drew thousands to the 39th Street Strip. It featured live music with The Bright Light Social Hour from Austin, Texas headlining the event.
The two-day Pride Festival on Saturday and Sunday, featured booths from a variety of organizations, including regional artists, activist organizations, campaigns, local churches and businesses. There were local food trucks and a fabulous Family Fun Zone was set up along the Strip.
“We were so impressed with the family fun zone,” said Oklahoma City resident and festival participant Emily Garman. “Such friendly volunteers, fun and creative activities for kids of all ages. I can tell a lot of thought and effort was put into this. It was really awesome to see so many families with kiddos enjoying Pride.”
In addition, a Family Festival at Expressions Community Church was held on Saturday.
On Sunday, marking it’s 30th year, the OKC Pride Parade stepped off continuing the theme, “30 Years of Resistance.” Over 100 parade entries celebrating diversity in Oklahoma made their way down Northwest 39th Street Sunday evening from Classen to Youngs Boulevard.
The parade route was lined with a large crowd of festive supporters of all ages. They were entertained by floats, vehicles and walking groups to honor Gay Pride.
The parade stepped off at 6 p.m. and travel south on Classen Blvd., turning west on 39th Street to Youngs Blvd.
Pride Parade Grand Marshall for 2017 was Oklahoma City performance artist Sonja Martinez. She 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. The upcoming event in December will be the 27th annual Benefit hosted by Martinez. 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 Oklahoma Gay Rodeo held in Oklahoma City.
Martinez was carried in the recognizable red Thunderbird convertible driven each year by owner Harold Watson. Donning a flowing full-length rainbow colored jacket, she was accompanied by her wife Dee Goodwin.
“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 the first time ever, Oklahoma City Public Schools participated in the OKC Pride Parade, according to News9 reporter Grant Hermes. The school district passed a resolution in early June to be a part of this year’s Pride festivities. A familiar yellow school bus decorated in rainbow colored streamers was accompanied by staff, students and supporters. The cost of using the bus was paid for by private donations, Hermes reported.
Congratulations go out to the 2017 Parade float winners which included: 1st place awarded to Bloody Mary/ Tramps; 2nd place went to Partners Club; and 3rd place was given to P-FLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) of Norman.
For more information about OKC Pride, visit okcpride.org