City kicks off LGBT Pride Month with reception at City Hall, including video address from Mayor Rawlings; events planned each Wed. in June

PRIDE PLAYBACK | Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings delivers a video message to more than 80 people who gathered in the Flag Room at City Hall on Wednesday, June 6, for an LGBT Pride Month Kickoff. Rawlings was unable to attend the event due to a funeral. (Amy Price/Dallas Voice)

ANNA WAUGH  |  Staff Writer

The city of Dallas is joining the LGBT community to celebrate Pride Month in June with a series of events focused on Big D’s diversity.

Councilwoman Delia Jasso’s LGBT Task Force came up with the idea for the events that are designed to allow the city to understand how its LGBT members have helped it grow and thrive, instead of just flying a Pride flag in City Hall, task force member Pam Gerber said.

“There was a group of us that got together several times to brainstorm ideas of what we thought would resonate for our community and be effective and helpful,” Gerber said.

The series is titled “Honor, Educate & Celebrate: Pride Wednesdays in June with the City of Dallas.” An event every Wednesday will showcase an aspect of the city’s LGBT community. It began with a kickoff Wednesday, June 6, in City Hall’s Flag Room.

About 80 people attended the kickoff, where the Task Force read a proclamation declaring June Dallas’ LGBT Pride month, and Mayor Mike Rawlings addressed the audience in a video message because a funeral prevented his attendance.

“Sometimes we haven’t agreed. But you’ve stayed steadfast, talked about the issues that are important to you and treated me with a real honor and respect,” Rawlings said in the video message. “Your style, your character, it’s truly something to be proud of. I love the way you advocate for your issues. I’m proud just to have you in Dallas.”

Jasso told the audience she’s proud of the Task Force’s accomplishments in its three years of meeting — which include helping Dallas police add a full-time LGBT liaison officer and beginning to implement diversity training at Dallas Fire-Rescue. But Jasso said the Task Force’s proudest accomplishment has been the city embracing the LGBT community.

“Not only do we embrace the LGBT community, but we also celebrate it — and most especially this month,” she said.

The city held its first Pride Month reception last year, flying the flag for one day in the Flag Room and issuing a one-day proclamation. But this year will be a monthlong celebration and a more substantial appreciation of the city’s LGBT citizens, task member Omar Narvaez said.

“I think it shows that the city of Dallas supports our community and respects our community,” he said.

Pride flags will hang in the atrium of City Hall and in the Flag Room on the sixth floor outside council chambers all month. The Task Force’s original goal was to have the Pride flag fly in City Hall Plaza. However, City Manager Mary Suhm said the three flags flying from poles in the plaza represent three governments under which the city operates — the U.S., Texas and city of Dallas — so it’s unlikely one would be replaced with a Pride flag.

Rawlings could hang the Pride flag from the balcony in the mayor’s office. He told Dallas Voice earlier this year that hanging the flag from the balcony “sounds like a fun thing to do.”

“I get a little intimidated with this balcony because it feels a little Evita-ish, you know, but something like that could be fun,” he said in February.

Rawlings’ Chief of Staff Paula Blackmon told Dallas Voice this week that hanging the flag from his balcony is “a good suggestion and we’ll entertain it.”

Asked whether Rawlings would attend any of the remaining Pride Month events, Blackmon said the mayor will be out of town on business for two weeks and his office hadn’t received a Pride Month event schedule.

However, it’s likely he’ll attend the final event because it is back at City Hall, Blackmon said.

The remaining Pride Month events are a discussion with representatives from city services on June 13 at the Oak Lawn Branch Library; openly LGBT elected officials speaking June 20 at the United Black Ellument Cultural Center; and a discussion about how the LGBT community has contributed to Dallas at City Hall on June 27.

Kirk Myers, a member of the task force and Abounding Prosperity’s executive director, spearheaded the planning on the June 27 event, which will bring together representatives from arts, business, nonprofit and other spheres to illustrate how LGBT members have contributed to Dallas.

Myers said he wanted to plan an event that would “show our involvement and our contributions to the fabric of the city,” evolving into inviting individuals who represent the city’s arts, culture, education and “all facets of life.”

“We’re here. We’ve been here. We’ve been contributing, we’ve been neighbors, we’ve been business owners,” Myers said. “I think enough attention hasn’t been brought to that portion of what we do versus our sexual orientation.”

In South Dallas, an area that Myers said is arguably the most homophobic in Dallas, the problem decreases when the community sees “you for more than just your sexuality.”

Myers also said the events were an opportunity for more awareness, education and economic development, with more entertainment and events in future years.

“This is yet another opportunity for businesses and the arts to create yet another event where everybody in Dallas can participate because that’s what we’re trying to do,” he said.

Calling the events “a starting point,” Gerber said the concept was to create a variety of events in different places and times so more members of the community could attend and participate. The flier promoting this year’s events states that any suggestions can be directed to Jasso because Gerber said the Task Force wants suggestions on how to improve the events for next year.

“This is our first stab at doing this because it’s never been done before, so the good news is that history’s being made,” she said. “This is the first time City Hall has invested itself to this degree in this city and they’re open to morphing in ways that will better accommodate the needs of the LGBT community.”

Gerber said she wanted the events to focus on bringing in speakers who would incite dialogue that would discuss the improvements and accomplishments made in the LGBT community.

“If we engage in a conversation, then we can help move the city forward,” she said.

Gerber said despite Dallas having its Pride parade in September, it is time Dallas has Pride events in June.

“This is gay Pride month and we should be doing something in June,” Gerber said. “I’m glad that it’s something as relevant as this.”


‘Honor, Educate and Celebrate’

The city of Dallas will host events each Wednesday in June for LGBT Pride Month:

City Services with the LGBT Community
June 13, 6:30-8 p.m.
Oak Lawn Branch Library
4100 Cedar Springs Road  
An evening with representatives from city public service departments including City Manager Mary Suhm and LGBT Liaisons Sr. Cpl. Laura Martin with Dallas police and Sherry Durant with Dallas Fire-Rescue.

LGBT in the Public Eye
June 20, 6:30-8 p.m.
United Black Ellument Cultural Center
3116 Commerce Street, Suite C
A conversation with out officials Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, 116th Civil District Court Judge Tonya Parker and former Dallas Councilman John Loza.

Lift Every Voice
June 27, noon-1 p.m.
Dallas City Hall Flag Room, 6th Floor
1500 Marilla Street
A conversation with organization and community leaders on LGBT contributions to the City of Dallas.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 8, 2012.