The giant rainbow flags are tucked away until next year and the streets are long since cleaned up after this past weekend’s Pride Parade but Southern Oregon University’s involvement with it appears to just be getting started. For the first time in its history SOU co-sponsored the event.
Perhaps that is no surprise.
Ashland, Oregon is a city known for its small-town vibe, liberal political values, outdoor attractions, and array of festivities the city hosts throughout the year. These events include the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) and Green Show, film and music festivals, Saturday markets, and much more. While most of these are meant to draw in tourism, which the city gains much of its economy from, other events hit closer to home and the heart; Ashland’s annual Pride Parade, according to its organizers, is one of them, “This is definitely a community event, and each year the event gets bigger and people get more accepting,” Gina DuQuenne says.
DuQuenne introduced the Pride Parade to Ashland streets in October 2010. Gina is also the president of the all-inclusive and non-profit organization SOPride, which has put on the event for the past 6 years. Over the years, the parade has progressed into an entire two-day event gathering many supporters, among these supporters is the Southern Oregon University (SOU).
SOU has long sponsored the Pride Parade, but it wasn’t until DuQuenne’s invite did their participation in the event solidify. For the first time ever, SOU’s Student Life group and Queer Research Center (QRC) has a direct partnership with SOPride in making preparations for this year’s Pride Parade.
“I wanted people, especially younger people, to celebrate who they are and to see they don’t have to hide,” says DuQuenne as she explains her reason for incorporating the SOU with SoPride. “SOU already plays such a big role in the Pride Parade and is known for its support of the LGBTQ Community. It seemed natural to include them in the preparations, this isn’t the kind of event to do by yourself,” says DuQuenne.
“The involvement was much bigger than before,” shares Janelle Wilson, the associate director of Student Life. “The Pride Parade is Gina’s brain child and SOU being known for its support of the LGBTQ Community was happy to accept the invitation.”
Adam Railsbask, a member of Student Life agrees. “It was definitely a big undertaking. Compared to previous years, it took much more coordination and reaching out on our part than before.”
This year’s Pride featured some new enterprises. For example, each year, SOPride holds a fundraiser – the “White Party” – and donates a large amount of the proceeds to a nonprofit. This year SoPride created a scholarship to be awarded to an SOU student; all the student need do to apply is submit an essay.
Miles Smith is one of the students to receive this new-found scholarship. His parents attended the Pride Parade this year to support him and the community.
For many, this event allows participants to feel welcome in their own skin. People like Jamie Roberts, a known “drag queen”, has been a part of such things for 10 years. To Roberts this parade is about seeing change and everyone supporting each other, which fully embraces the “Be Yourself, Change the World” theme of this year’s annual pride parade:
“It means you can only make a difference, a social impact, by owning who you are and loving it.” – Danielle Mancuso, Assistant Director Student Life for Involvement
“It’s about being able to be authentic with ourselves and be true to who we are.” – Janelle Wilson, Queer Resource Center Coordinator and Associate Director of Social Justice & Service
“Living authentically, not compromising who you are, but be changemakers and living loud.” – Adam Railsbask
“Be happy and love yourself.” – Jamie Robert, Drag Queen