MURRAY — June is Pride Month, and local members of the LGBTQ+ community will be hosting a march Saturday in Murray to help provide a means for LGBTQ+ community members to celebrate safely and peacefully.
The march will kick off at noon with a peaceful march escorted by Murray State University Police as well as the Murray Police Department. Following the march, which will begin at the Murray State gates on Olive Boulevard and end at Chestnut Park, a series of events will be held. This will include speakers and a raffle, in addition to other community events at various locations throughout the community.
The march is being organized by Kora Carlson and Nicole Schmittou, partners who were discussing recent national events involving Pride parades and counter protesters at those events. Such events included a Straight Pride parade being organized in Boston, and a neo-Nazi protest at Pride event in Detroit.
Carlson, a Marshall County native attending Murray State University, and Schmittou, a Murray native currently working in Colorado, were talking about the need for members of rural communities to be able to celebrate Pride without fear of violence and without having to travel great distances to do so. The two began talking about the idea on Sunday, and have already been surprised with the support they have received.
“I was in New York visiting my family and I had read some things in the news about the straight pride event that happened in Boston, and the Nazis protesting a Pride event in Detroit. That got us thinking about these Pride events that weren’t able to go on safely or without protests,” Schmittou said. “That kicked off our conversation about how to safely attend Pride and what that looks like.”
Carlson said that got them thinking about how they could contribute.
“How can we contribute while living in a small town in western Kentucky,” Carlson said. “So Nicole had the idea – well, why not have a Pride Day in Murray?”
The two said that for LGBTQ+ individuals in more remote and rural communities, it can be a big trek to the nearest Pride event.
“For any queer person living in a rural area, you have to go to a big city in order to celebrate Pride,” Schmittou said. “Nashville is the closest at two hours away. I rode back on my flight from New York to Nashville with a couple from Nashville who spent money to go to New York, stay a couple of days at a hotel, and attend New York Pride — because that is probably the biggest one in the country.
“But if you don’t have the means to go to these big events, what is something that people living in rural communities could still do to celebrate their community and still feel safe while doing so?”
Carlson said that after their conversation, a notebook with ideas slowly began to fill. Carlson made a trip to Murray City hall, the Murray State Police and the Murray Police departments, and said it was surprising to her how easy it was to get everything organized with city officials.
“I had really good experiences with all three,” Carlson said. “I got the OK on Wednesday, we got some graphics made, and then the march turned into a whole city-wide Pride Day.”
Carlson said they have been in touch with local businesses in the community to see if they would be interested in offering discounts or to donate raffle items to the event. Carlson said they also found plenty of support from the community in this regard.
“I went to maybe eight businesses and asked if they would want to participate in some way, and each one said yes,” Carlson said. “The ones that didn’t simply said they would think about it; there were not harsh words from anyone.”
Schmittou said that so far, they have been greeted with warm support from the community members they have approached. Following the march, there will be a series of events held at the Chestnut Park Pavillion, including food, live speakers and raffles for pride-themed items provided by local businesses.
Schmittou said a list of participating businesses offering discounts for the day would also be provided to attendees at the park. At the end of the day, an after party will be held at 7 p.m. at Lucky’s.
The two said they have hopes to make this the first of many Pride celebrations in the community in years to come. She said that for young members of the LGBTQ+ community, such events are beyond important.
“I think ‘important’ is almost too mild of a word to use,” Schmittou said. “Having the representation of a queer community and celebrating it as if it is not this thing that should be closeted. If there would have been a pride event when I was in high school, for example, seeing that representation in my own town, (I could have seen) that it is more than OK and something to be celebrated. The idea of celebrating who you are in a public way is really important.”
Carlson said the event would also be appropriate considering this year marks 50 years since the Stonewall Riots, which took place at the end of June 1969. The event was the genesis for Pride Month, and Carlson said there were hopes that people could walk away learning something new about Pride.
“I think it might shine a light on historical events as well,” Carlson said. “Pride is because of the Stonewall Riots in 1969. We should have had a celebration a while ago in Murray, so this is really good timing. We just want it to be a peaceful march and for the support for the community to be screamed.”