Organizers hope to make rally an annual event
Million Gay March of Texas
WHEN: 2 p.m. Sunday, June 28
WHERE: Parking lot of Kroger, 4142 Cedar Springs Road in Dallas
INFORMATION: For more info, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.mgmtexas.org.
Organizers of the Million Gay March of Texas — set for June 28 in Dallas — say they’re hoping it can become a yearly event to commemorate the anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion.
This year’s march, which will mark 40 years since the 1969 rebellion that’s credited with launching the gay rights movement, is expected to draw between 2,000 and 3,000 people, according to Latisha McDaniel and Daniel Cates, who co-chair the committee that’s organizing the march.
The Million Gay March, billed as an LGBT equality protest, will travel down Cedar Springs Road from Knight Street to Lee Park. It will be followed by a political rally in the park, with speakers and informational booths sponsored by local advocacy groups.
Cates said holding a similar event annually would allow Dallas — which unlike most major cities celebrates gay Pride in September — to participate in June’s National Gay Pride Month.
"I would love for it to become an annual event," Cates said. "There’s really no reason Dallas shouldn’t participate in some way in Pride month."
But both Cates and McDaniel stressed that the march is in no way be intended to compete with Dallas’ Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade, which is scheduled for Sept. 20 this year.
"I would never propose that," Cates said. "That doesn’t mean that we can’t do something for Pride month, and this could probably be that something."
Cates and McDaniel added that while it isn’t intended to compete with the September celebration, they believe the Million Gay March is actually more in line with the original meaning of gay Pride.
"We have Pride, and Pride is Pride," McDaniel said, noting that the Million Gay March won’t include alcohol.
"It’s basically for people to go out and get drunk and march down the street in cute costumes," she said of Pride. "We need something that actually represents what Pride started on. It started on a rebellion. It started on the fact that people were sick and tired of being discriminated against …
"I think we’ve kind of lost that in Dallas, the true meaning of Pride," McDaniel added. "I think this would be a way of bringing back what Pride really is. It’s not going to take away from Pride. This is not a party."
Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance President Patti Fink, another member of the committee that’s planning the Million Gay March, said it will be "a great event" and she’s looking forward to people joining together to celebrate the LGBT community’s history. But Fink added that she’s unsure whether it would be feasible to organize a similar event every year in Dallas.
"We have an enormous Pride parade in September that is well publicized, and people really know about it," Fink said. "I don’t know that any event that’s proposed to be annual in June will get the same kind of response from the community.
"I’ve heard it thrown around," Fink said of the idea. "That’s not something the coalition of organizations [planning committee] has really addressed at all. If there are rumblings among some that they want to do that, that’s on them. I don’t think the coalition of organizations has committed to that."
Michael Doughman, who oversees planning of Pride as executive director of the Dallas Tavern Guild, said he isn’t concerned about the Million Gay March competing with the September celebration.
"I think they’re two entirely different venues," Doughman said. "I think one’s very politically motivated, and we have always made a conscious effort to try to keep politics and religion out of Pride. We view Pride Sunday as a celebration, and everything that we do in producing Pride is geared to that end."
Dallas celebrated Pride in June in the early 1980s, but it was moved to September after a few years, purportedly to mark the anniversary of a court ruling that temporarily threw out Texas’ anti-sodomy statute.
Celebrating Pride in September allows Dallas to avoid the June Texas heat, but Doughman said the best argument is that it also eliminates competition with other cities.
Many people from Dallas travel to Pride in places like New York and Chicago in June, he said, and the Big D’s celebration has become a national draw in September.
"If they have a vision of making this an annual event, and they can secure funding for it, then I think they have every right to do it," he said of the Million Gay March. "I think anytime the community can unite on any basis that’s valid and come together and celebrate who we are, it’s a good thing.
"The march is no different from Black Tie Dinner or Purple Party or any other event," he said. "The fact is they’re four months apart, and I’m not concerned about us ever losing our audience for Pride. Even if it did evolve into something that was more similar to Pride and the festival, there are still four months between them."
Cates and McDaniel said this week that organizers have secured all permits and park reservations needed for the Million Gay March, which will begin in the parking lot of Kroger at 2 p.m. next Sunday.
They said Million Gay March organizers have distributed thousands of fliers to promote the event over the last few weeks, and posters are now hanging from Plano to Waxahachie. While 2,000 to 3,000 is the official estimate, Cates said it’s impossible to predict how many will participate.
"We’ve gotten an enormous response on Facebook and on MySpace, and my phone never stops ringing and neither does hers [McDaniel’s]," Cates said.
McDaniel said people are encouraged to arrive early for the march, because no special parking has been set aside for the event.
Cates said participants should dress creatively — or go shirtless with body paint —and bring their own signs and flags, although some extras may be available.
"We’re hoping to have a good visual effect," Cates said. "We encourage everybody to bring as much Pride gear and rainbow-colored everything as they can possibly come up with."
Million Gay March participants should also bring and drink plenty of water, he added. The average high for June 28 in Dallas is 94 degrees, with a record of 112 in 1980.
McDaniel and Cates they expect the march to take about 30 minutes, with the rally in Lee Park extending from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
The rally will be MC’d by Rick Vanderslice, and confirmed speakers include Cece Cox, Blake Wilkinson and Chastity Kirven. The featured musical guest will be Gary Floyd, and booths in the park will be sponsored by Stonewall Democrats, SMU’s Spectrum, Dallas County Young Democrats, LULAC, DGLA and Queer LiberAction. Political organizations but not social groups can still apply for booths in the park, but after Monday, June 22, the price will go from $100 to $150.
Cates and McDaniel said the march will cost significantly less than once expected, largely because it’s been classified by the city as a political demonstration as opposed to a parade/celebration. Dallas police will assist with traffic control and security in the park.
The committee has held a handful of fundraisers for the event, bringing in well over $6,000. All leftover proceeds from the march will go to the Phil Johnson Historic Archives and Library at Resource Center Dallas.
The Million Gay March of Texas was initially conceived this spring as part of a national effort to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Stonewall, coordinated by the Grassroots Equality Network. However, since then the Grassroots Equality Network has provided little support, with planning for the march left in the hands of the local committee that’s been meeting weekly.
"At a certain point, I was really worried about things, but now it’s all coming together," Cates said. "The community has really pulled together and pulled this off."
McDaniel said the co-chairs and the committee have learned some lessons the hard way, but she said that those lessons will come in handy in future years, when she’s hoping to see more organizations involved.
"I believe as long as there’s something we have to fight for, there’s a reason to march," she said. "I’m hoping one day we won’t have to march, but obviously for the next 10 years I can see us having a march like this every year. Hopefully it will get bigger and people will have something to look forward to."
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 19, 2009.