More than 20 years after the city's first pride march, Detroiters and people from across the region will take to the streets this weekend to celebrate the LGBT community and honor the gay rights activists who came before them.
The two-day Motor City Pride event is expected to draw nearly 50,000 people to Hart Plaza June 2 and 3. Pride events have been ongoing in different forms in the Detroit area for more than 40 years, but it wasn't until last year that organizers reinstated a Detroit Pride march, which hadn't been a part of the celebrations for more than a decade.
Despite its long history, the festival has not staked a permanent spot, moving around from Detroit, to Lansing, to Dearborn and Royal Oak before remaining in Ferndale for nearly 10 years. The annual festival moved to Hart Plaza in 2011 and became a two-day event.
"We were growing out of the space," said Dave Wait, MCP organizer and board member of advocacy group Equality Michigan. "It's a very open festival, and last year, moving into Hart Plaza, people [passing by] who thought it looked interesting came and enjoyed the music and food."
As the festival seeks stability, Equality Michigan faces its own struggles, with upheavals in its leadership over the last five years. Most recently, Executive Director Denise Brogan-Kator stepped down last month after less than a year in the position, according to Between The Lines.
Wait said changes are part of the organization's evolution, and Equality Michigan is looking at its organizational structure to determine if there are places to scale back before starting the search for a replacement. Pride will go on as planned.
With a long lineup of musical acts, Wait said Pride looks to highlight local performers. When choosing acts, organizers don't limit themselves to LGBT-identified artists, but rather look for a diverse group of performers who will appeal to the community, including Detroiter Duane the Teenage Weirdo, nationally-known bounce music queen Big Freedia and electro group Hyper Crush.
Shortly after the festival opens, a commitment ceremony for attendees will take place Saturday afternoon. Same-sex marriage is banned by a 2004 amendment to Michigan's constitution.
"It's a way for people to pledge their commitment, and it reminds people in a public way that we can't get married," Wait explained.
But rather than focus on challenges facing LGBT Michiganders, Motor City Pride will offer a celebration -- one that has earned the financial support of the Big Three automakers and a large group of smaller vendors in the area, the Greater Downtown Independent Merchants.
Sunday's Pride march starts at 11 a.m. on Griswold Street north of Lafayette before making its way down to Hart Plaza. For more information, see the Motor City Pride website.
Flickr photo by MTaylor Devicious.