The Stonewall Riots marks it’s 50th anniversary this weekend and Waco Pride Network, a local LGBTQ nonprofit, is hosting its first 'OUT and PROUD Dance' in commemoration of the historic event this Saturday, June 29.
The group was officially founded as a nonprofit organization in July 2018 – but in 2017 organizers initially worked to give Waco’s LGBTQ community a voice in response to several billboards that advocated for conversion therapy.
Melissa Green is the Secretary of the Waco Pride Network’s Board. She said money came in from across the United States to help the LGBTQ community unite.
“We used that money as a jumping off point and several people, myself included, were just a part of this group of people that wanted to make something happen – and we had our first OUT on the Brazos event two years ago," Green said.
The first OUT on the Brazos Festival was originally planned as a small picnic – but turned out more than 400 people – which in turn enabled organizers to raise funds for future Pride events.
This Saturday will be the organization's first 'OUT and PROUD Dance' during Pride month. It also lines up with the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York City in 1969 – the series of violent confrontations between police and gay rights activists outside the Stonewall Inn.
Green said they usually do their Pride events in October, in part because of the Texas heat – but also because many LGBTQ in the community visit the larger-scale festivals in Texas during June.
“We can’t compete with that… but we wanted to have something because this is such a momentous occasion so we decided - let’s have a dance," Green said.
She said the dance is also opened up to LGBTQ students.
“We want everybody to have a chance to celebrate who they are and in a safe place as well as to celebrate history that was made this coming weekend fifty years ago," Green said.
Lincoln Crowder is an at large member for the Waco Pride Network board as well as the chair of the Pride Planning Committee. He said the event will also be a chance to unveil the new logo for OUT on the Brazos Festival on October 12th.
“We had more than a dozen submissions for our logo competition… The committee that I chair narrowed it down to three finalists that we felt were good fits for what we needed for our logo," Crowder said.
Charley Garrison is the pastor at the Central Texas Metropolitan Community Church, one of the affirming churches in Waco. He was also on the board of the Waco Pride Network.
He said he has continued to support and promote the first OUT and PROUD Dance and that having youth being able to attend is a step forward.
“In this day and age more and more youth are coming out and we need to be there for them as they do and offer that support," Garrison said. "And so I’m excited that the Waco Pride Network is in that mindset that they are ready to be available to our youth.”
Garrison said there are other official affirming churches the LGBTQ community can go in Waco like Lakeshore Baptist Church, University Baptist Church Waco, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Waco, Unity Spiritual Center of Waco and CrossTies Ecumenical Church. He said there are a few other churches who are unofficially welcoming of the LGBTQ community.
“And I think the reason for that is because their denomination does not support that and so they may not be able to actually come out and make an official statement," Garrison said.
The Waco Pride Network is also working to provide educational material for adults who are unsure how to respond if a child comes out to them. Some of their goals for 2019 include hosting community building events every month and having additional community building projects.
The nonprofit will hold the dance at the Brazos Theatre at 7524 Bosque Blvd Q in Waco from 7 to 10 p.m. where students with a valid ID will get in free – but others will pay a $5 admission fee. More information about the dance can be found on the Waco Pride Network's site.