Pride 2011 • YFT Color Guard will wave the flags proudly

Six-member team will perform routine to ‘Take It Off’ as they march in the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade

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WAVING THE FLAG | Danny Rojas, one of the YFT color guard members with no experience, learns to wave the flag. (Draconis von Trapp/Dallas Voice)

Draconis von Trapp  |  Intern
intern@dallasvoice.com

This year, instead of just marching in the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade and throwing beads and condoms, members of Youth First Texas have decided to throw flags.

In other words, the YFT Color Guard will be hitting the pavement of Cedar Springs Road, with six teens marching and twirling flags to the tune of “Take It Off” by Ke$ha.

For some of the six, the parade will be their debut performance as flag throwers: Half of the team has some significant amount of drill team experience, while the other three are brand new.

Team Captain Michael Eaves has been in color guard for two years at his high school in Sachse. He leads the team with his experience and one-on-one instruction.

“It seemed like something fun,” Eaves said. “Most people do floats, so we do something different.”

He said that there was one color guard team last year, so, “Why not have two?”

From Plano Senior High, 17-year-old Celina Blanco is one of the co-captains of her color guard squad, and she takes partial command of the YFT group. Blanco has been guarding for three years and has been captain for two of those years, giving her the experience she needs to successfully help guide the newbies through a basic color guard routine.

“It’s kind of my goal in life to aid the youth and have a better upbringing, you know, more open,” Blanco says. “Being able to participate in the gay Pride parade and being able to tell my straight friends that, you know, I’m gonna be in this and I support this completely.”

Blanco was raised without any pressure over her sexuality or gender binary status, and she wants to be able to share that experience with other youth at YFT. Blanco also participates in Youth Board, a youth-run leadership program where the young people work with the YFT Executive Board to develop fundraising ideas and outreach activities, including deciding who and what goes into the parade for YFT’s group.

Also from Plano Senior High and a part of Youth Board, 16-year-old Maz-E Magnus is holding her own flag in the routine for Pride. Unlike Blanco, though, Magnus doesn’t have any previous color guard experience.

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REHEARSAL | Michael Eaves, left, leads rehearsal for the premiere performance of YFT’s color guard in the Pride Parade. (Draconis von Trapp/Dallas Voice)

 

“I had gone to football games and I’ve seen them out on the football field … and I was like, ‘Eh, okay, I guess it’s cool,’” Magnus said nonchalantly. “But then Celina was like, ‘Oh, we’re doing color guard at YFT!’”

At first, Magnus just volunteered to be the music master, stopping and starting the music as needed by the team. But after watching the others spin around and toss the flags around, though, Magnus’ interest was piqued.

“I was like, ‘Oh, I can do this! Hey, can I join?’ And they agreed. It’s still fun, but it’s a lot of hard work; it’s not as easy as I thought it would be,” she confided, rubbing her shoulders and explaining the physical intensity that is required for color guard.

Another experienced color guard co-captain, 17-year-old Joeii Johnson, leapt at the chance to participate in the routine with YFT. From Lake

Highlands High School, Johnson did both color guard and winter guard, which includes higher-intensity routines and rifles and sabers as opposed to flags.

“I feel empowered,” Johnson says about his love of color guard, “when I can throw something in the air, spin around and then catch it in the right spot. I like the fact that I’m the envelope pusher; I’m the one that does things no one expects me to do.”

Johnson joined color guard when all his older brothers did contact sports.

“When [my family] sees what I do, when I toss something and I catch it … they were amazed, and I felt good,” Johnson says.

“It’s about having fun and being proud that we even went out there to do this,” Johnson said.

He acknowledged that the routine the YFT Color Guard performs in the parade on Sunday might not be perfect that day. But, he declared, they’re still going to have a good time showing their colors.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 16, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Trevor Project calls for moment of silence for suicide victims at 7 p.m. Dallas time today

We aren’t aware of any specific events planned for Dallas in response to the suicides of six teens in the U.S. who were gay or perceived as gay in September, but it looks like a National Safe Schools Day of Action will take place next Tuesday, Oct. 5. Also, there will be a Stand Up to Youth Suicide Rally and March in San Francisco on Friday, Oct. 8, and rallies are reportedly being planned next weekend through the “It Gets Better” project, in advance of National Coming Out Day on Oct. 11. Does anyone know of anything that’s planned for Dallas? As we reported earlier, many plan to gather around Big Tex at the State Fair at noon Saturday, Oct. 9 during the unofficial Gay Day, so perhaps this would be a good time to do it. Just a thought.

Anyhow, The Trevor Project is calling for a moment of silence and reflection at 7 tonight Dallas time in remembrance of the victims. Here’s the full press release:

The Trevor Project Asks All Americans for a Moment of Silence at 8pm ET, 5pm PT Tonight

(West Hollywood, CA, October 1, 2010) – Statement from Charles Robbins, Executive Director of The Trevor Project:

Late last night, The Trevor Project learned of yet another young LGBTQ person who died by suicide. Raymond Chase was a sophomore at Johnson and Wales University in Rhode Island when he took his own life on Wednesday. Words do not adequately describe the tragic loss felt across the country for the five promising young individuals who were so isolated and felt so alone and cut off from their peers and society that suicide became an option.

We encourage all people who feel connected to these tragic events, whether friends, family, peers, community members, and sympathetic human beings to pause today at 8:00 PM Eastern, 5:00 PM Pacific for a moment of silence and reflection in remembrance of Raymond Chase, Tyler Clementi, Seth Walsh, Asher Brown and Billy Lucas. Events are being planned across the country in the coming weeks to mourn the loss of these young people, and to take action to stop bullying crimes that lead to suicide, and a website http://makeitbetterproject.com/.

To help stop the cycle that leads young lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning people to feel they are alone, connect them to The Trevor Project. There is a place that’s free of bullying and judgment online, where young LGBTQ people, their friends and allies ages 13-24 can connect safely and be themselves. More than 13,000 young people already belong to TrevorSpace.org, and more youth join every day. If you or someone you care about shows warning signs for suicide, please do not hesitate to call The Trevor Lifeline at: 866-4-U-TREVOR (866-488-7386). The call is free and confidential.

We mourn the loss of these 5 young people, and today we will stand in silent solidarity for an end to the unnecessary loss of young lives.

—  John Wright