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PRIDE week events planned, concluding with Saturday walk

News Photo by Darby Hinkley Volunteer Abby Middlebrook and TBT Artistic Director Lucas Moquin make decorations for the TBT window to celebrate PRIDE week for LGBTQ+ awareness.

ALPENA — Pride is in the air this week, as rainbow flags decorate windows to signify support for the LGBTQ+ community during National Pride Week.

Thunder Bay Theatre, ACC Takes Pride, and Hope Shores Alliance are teaming up to present events, including a Let’s Talk: Pride panel featuring six panelists on Friday and a community walk on Saturday.

Because of the pandemic and current social distancing precautions, the panel will be pre-recorded on Thursday and available to view on the Thunder Bay Theatre Facebook page on Friday. Questions for panelists can be submitted online prior to the recording by clicking on a link on the TBT Facebook page.

TBT Artistic Director Lucas Moquin and volunteer Abby Middlebrook were working on Tuesday, cutting multicolored paper hearts to go in the window of TBT on 2nd Avenue. Moquin and Middlebrook were working on rainbow designs to accompany the Pride flag already hanging in the window.

On Tuesday, activities started with a Virtual Heels Class with TBT alumnus Adrian Alexander.

News Photo by Darby Hinkley TBT Board Member Kingsli Kraft looks at the PRIDE flag hanging in the window at Thunder Bay Theatre.

“It’s basically just hip-hop and vogue in high heels,” Moquin explained of the class, which was held at Bella Rose last year. Moquin participated, but not in heels because he said he didn’t want to break an ankle.

“Throughout the rest of the week, we are going to be posting some resources and articles,” Moquin said, all pertaining to LGBTQ+ experiences. “Like, plays and musicals that discuss different LGBTQ issues … I’ve actually been finding some really, really interesting articles about the history of LGBTQ theater, or what’s known as ‘queer theater.’ Really, really fascinating stuff.”

Moquin said TBT board members Kingsli Kraft and Betsy Young have been working furiously to get ready for this week’s events. He added that ACC Takes Pride has put in a lot of work, as well.

Kraft is the programming committee chair on the TBT Board of Directors.

“It’s something that I’m very passionate about,” she said of LGBTQ+ issues. “Especially here, in this community. Growing up, there are so many people who I knew growing up who came out after they left here. When I told them we were having a Pride panel, and when I told them some of the things that are happening at the high school, there’s a Pride group at ACC, there’s a Pride group at the high school. Those are things we never would have imagined being possible.”

June is National Pride Month, held in the U.S. to commemorate the Stonewall Riots of June 1969. Gay pride or LGBTQ+ pride is the term used to bolster self-affirmation, equality, dignity and increased visibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people as a social group. Having pride in who you are is at the core of the movement, as opposed to shame and social stigma that has been predominant in mainstream American culture over the years.

“I would love for Let’s Talk to become kind of an overall program, in and of itself, for people to connect and for people to realize that, sure, we live in Alpena, and it does feel like we’re isolated a lot of times, and we are so far away from everything that is happening, but there are people who live here who have been impacted by the same things that people experience living in New York,” Kraft said.

Kraft graduated from high school in 2014.

“I know that there are still people who I know well who live here pretty secretly,” she said. “They’re not out, and they don’t totally feel comfortable doing so.”

She hopes things can continue to move in a more positive direction for LGBTQ+ rights.

“I’ve had a lot of friends who experienced a lot of hate and bullying and things, because of who they were and how they presented themselves,” she said. “I just, I know that we can do better, and I know that acceptance has come a long way already. And I just think that we can’t sit in comfort and silence. We have to continue to push it forward.”

Panelists who will be featured in the Let’s Talk discussion at 8 p.m. Friday, include:

∫ Anna Marck, actress, activist, farmer-in-training (TBT Alum)

∫ Tom Berriman, Alpena High School principal

∫ Suzy Langeveld, community member

∫ Jenn Cousineau, community member, soon to be therapist

∫ Jen Baker, outreach advocacy coordinator at Hope Shores Alliance

∫ Zoey Collins, representative of ACC Takes Pride at Alpena Community College.

Prior to the panel, a virtual Craft Your Own Pride Cocktail class will begin at 7 p.m. with The Mockingbird Cocktails & Bartending, with Anne Gentry and Don LaBarre. The event will be held via Facebook Live on the TBT page. A list of ingredients will be posted ahead of time so you can make your own Pride cocktails along with the presenters.

Then, at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Pride activities will culminate with the Pride Walk, starting at the Maritime Heritage Trail Head on Fletcher Street. The walk begins at 11 a.m. The route will follow the trail along the river to the footbridge, cross it, head east down Chisholm Street, left up 2nd Avenue and end at Culligan Plaza.

Kraft said people in Alpena seem to be more accepting of the LGBTQ+ community over the past few years.

“Last year, we had a huge turnout for our Pride picnic, and ACC Takes Pride said they had 40 people walk with them in the (Fourth of July) parade last year, and were met with cheers and everything,” Kraft said. “I just think that helping give those people visibility, and then also, if I can pass the mic to them in any way to help elevate their voices in this community, then I think that’s my responsibility to do so.”

She and Moquin agreed that starting conversations about LGBTQ+ topics is a good way to let your friends and family know where you stand, and that doing so may encourage them to speak up, as well.

You can also add your pronouns at the end of your email signature (if you are female, add “she/her,” or, if you are male, add “he/him” under your name), Kraft said. She added that voting for politicians who support LGBTQ+ rights is another way to make your voice matter. And watching entertainment and documentaries about those topics and educating yourself online is always helpful.

“Google is not going to judge you,” Kraft added.

Moquin added that TBT is committed to diversity and inclusivity, and playing a role in giving the LGBTQ+ community a voice.

“This is a great way that we can help,” he said. “It’s about lifting up other people’s voices and giving them a chance to express themselves and say, ‘Here I am. This is me. Get over it.'”

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