Celebrating Love, Resisting Hate: Interviews with Pride Leaders

by Ned Hayes for OLY ARTS

Capital City Pride celebrates 26 years in 2017, and with this year’s celebration the torch of leadership has passed. Anna Schlecht has formally left her management role. Gina Thompson and Lucas Miller are co-chairs this year, alongside treasurer Christina White, board secretary Kai Abrahamson and volunteer coordinator Tiffany Casman. Last weekend, Abrahamson, Casman, Schlecht and Thompson discussed this change and the meaning of Pride with OLY ARTS.

“Pride is a very sacred event in our community,” says Thompson. “My first pride was one of the first places I felt really connected. I think it’s really important to have it available to all in our community.”

“Pride has always been very important to me, and I was 10 years old when I went to my first Pride,” explains Casman. “I’ve always attended, but this is my first year volunteering. Pride is very dear to me.”

Abrahamson is also new to the scene — His first Olympia Pride was last year. “Pride is an act of celebration for all people,” he says. “Coming together peacefully can be really spiritual and holy. Recognizing the differences in our communities can be healing.”

Schlecht offers the perspective of a community elder. “Part of the reason I’m stepping away from running Pride is that my generation of older, LGBTQ activists have been running the show for a long time. Younger activists are more racially diverse, and benefit from a broader worldview because of their exposure to online information. While Pride is deeply personal and important to me, I want to help others lead now.”

“It was a transition year, and we needed people to step up,” says Casman, “and that’s why I joined the board. I felt like there was more I could do to ensure Pride continued and flourished.”

The team is also excited to know Schlecht will continue to be a resource to the Pride team. “There’s a wealth of knowledge that comes from the decades of this work and activism,” says Abrahamson. “And we can carry the flag further because of the foundational work that was done here.”

The Pride team does feel a certain urgency to their work right now. “This year, there is a lot of fear and anxiety for people who are marginalized,” explains Abrahamson. “Pride helps create a safe place for people who are not only accepted, but celebrated for their differences.”

“Our theme this year is to resist hate and celebrate love,” says Thompson. “With the current Administration, there are people in our community who are getting directly attacked. It is important that we celebrate love with the same intensity that we are resisting hate.”

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