I AM EXCITED TO be providing my perspective to Quorum Columbus.
As you get to know me you will notice my pieces may often refer to a group that morphed into a movement called SHADES. Much of my coming out experience, and therefore my understanding of pride, are intertwined with SHADES. The fellowship I have had through SHADES has proved integral to discovering my voice as a gay man of color.
For many people of color, finding our place in the Black Community and in the LGBTQ Community can be an interesting balance given the history of oppression within both communities. This was the case when SHADES was founded in 2005 at Ohio University in Athens. That year there was an increasingly diverse freshmen class with more same gender loving (SGL)/ LGBTQ students who had difficulties finding a “place” on campus to connect with each other and to feel comfortable expressing themselves.
At the start SHADES only invited SGL/LGBTQ members to join, but soon became apparent that this only made it more difficult to be ourselves when we did not have an open door policy and culture for our straight allies. SHADES began to place greater emphasis on the necessity to have active allies involved. Without their valuable help and support of allies our efforts for acceptance, nurturance, and true equality would be nearly pointless.
In light of where the LGBTQ movement is today, SHADES has grown rather organically into an organization that is no longer exclusive to one institution, but pervasive in the lives of different people of diverse backgrounds and geographically throughout the United States. Columbus was fertile ground for the second SHADES group that formed at OSU as it became the catalyst to this new concept.
At OSU students of color were welcomed with open arms by faculty and students of many backgrounds and distinctions, which lead to SHADES at OSU leading the 2011 Pride Parade front and center. The buzz about this now diverse and inclusive LGBTQ group surpassed the vision of the organizations founders’ wildest dreams. Of course, the work continues.
This year’s Pride Festival must be more inclusive than in years past in order to raise the sense of self-worth, identity, and community for our members. Pride should inspire each person to take full pride in who they are through outreach programs, forums, the parade and parties. Now is the perfect time for the greater LGBTQA movement to begin fellowship with people of different races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, gender identities, religions, creeds, socio-economic backgrounds, abilities, and more.
Columbus Pride 2013 will be a celebration of what we all stand for all year round and it will be an excellent way for our community to experience a glimpse of the lives of queer people of color. As SHADES members wave our bright colored flags and shout out, I hope allies and on lookers of varied distinctions will come to associate themselves with the SHADES movement in order to better us all as a people.
At the end of each SHADES meeting, we state the same words so we never forget why we are there. I want to leave you with them and hope to see you this month basking in your pride. “We Will Be Seen! We Will Be Heard!”