By Tereasa Nims

Meshell Ndegeocello

Meshell Ndegeocello, Pansy Division scheduled to headline entertainment at day-long celebration; night parade will follow festival

Organizers are gearing up for the 13th annual Pride Texas celebration in Austin, so pull your favorite boa from the closet and plan to don your most colorful attire.

An estimated 10,000 people from across Texas are expected to attend Pride Texas 2008 in Austin, organizers said. The event is being presented by Equality Texas on June 14 from noon to 7 p.m. at Auditorium Shores.

Those who have attended the event in previous years will find themselves in a new location this time out. This year, Pride Texas moves from Waterloo Park to Auditorium Shores, a historic outdoor venue, said Equality Texas Development Director Marianne DeLeon.

"We’ve tried to move to Auditorium Shores for many years," DeLeon said.

But the beloved venue only schedules 24 events a year.

This year though, after lobbying the Austin City Council, Austin Police Department and the neighborhood association, Pride Texas is one of the 2008 events.

DeLeon said it’s a very inviting venue where event goers can see the Austin skyline and Town Lake. It’s also centrally located.

DeLeon said the family-friendly community event includes a phenomenal lineup of musicians, food and non-stop fun.

"We want to make sure there’s something for everyone," DeLeon said.

There will also be an estimated 150 vendors on hand made up of LGBT-supportive businesses, artists, restaurateurs and community service organizations.

This year organizers have invested a lot of effort in having the event appeal to all walks of life and not just the LGBT community, DeLeon said. So they pulled in entertainment they hope will help achieve that goal.

Pansy Division will open the show. The group is featured in a documentary, titled "The Pansy Division: Life in a Gay Rock Band," that is being released this month at the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival. Pride Texas invited Pansy Division specifically because the band is a gay group, DeLeon said.

Headlining the show is nine-time Grammy nominee Meshell Ndegeocello, the German-born singer, songwriter, rapper, bassist and multi-instrumentalist whose music incorporates funk, soul, hip-hop, reggae, R&B and jazz.

DeLeon said the African-American artist is very open about her sexuality and will help reach out to a diverse crowd.

"We wanted to stay true to the diversity of our community," DeLeon said.

Marianne DeLeon

Pansy Division and Ndegeocello are the last shows of the event.

Organizers have also scheduled an ’80s rock band and a Latino group, and are attempting to book a transgender group to perform during the day.

"We want to make sure all groups are represented," DeLeon said.

Proceeds from the event go toward helping Equality Texas’ outreach and educational efforts. The group also helps to coordinate efforts of the LGBT and allied organizations.

"Equality Texas is a state wide advocacy organization that aims to end discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression," DeLeon said.

By having an event that appeals to LGBT, heterosexual, seniors and children, DeLeon said the group furthers their goal.

"We’ve found some of our biggest advocates have come from the straight community," DeLeon said. "We’re making a concerted effort this year to draw in the straight community, children and seniors. This helps our political voice become much stronger."

Following the festival, the Austin Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce Pride Parade kicks off from Auditorium Shores and will end at the festival grounds.

"It will be a full day of gay Pride," DeLeon said.

Tickets for the daylong event are $10 in advance and $15 at the gate. Tickets are available by calling 512-474-5475.


This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 4, 2008.
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