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Pridefest, Parade Participants Celebrate Their Individuality Throughout June Events

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Lauren Lou, Central Alabama Pride Newcomer 2024, along the Pride parade route on Birmingham's south side. (Marika N. Johnson, For The Birmingham Times)

By Sym Posey | The Birmingham Times

Among hundreds gathered this month as Central Alabama Pride celebrated its 46th anniversary in Birmingham’s Linn Park was Travis Jackson, public speaker, activist, and Iraq War Veteran.

Jackson said he wasn’t in attendance just to participate but wanted to make a statement with his own “Progressive Pride Flag” which featured a balled up brown fist.

“I love when people ask about the flag because it’s shocking that a lot of people don’t understand the significance of it,” said Jackson, who is from Houston and considers Birmingham, a second home. “This progressive pride flag with the brown fist, in my opinion, symbolizes Black, indigenous and people of color. I see it as the norm.”

Travis Jackson, public speaker, activist, Iraq War veteran and creator of the “Progressive Pride Flag.” (Sym Posey, The Birmingham Times)

Jackson said he found irony in this month Pridefest in Linn Park, the site of protests in 2020 after George Floyd was killed when Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, knelt on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes and protestors took aim at the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument in the park.

“It’s ironic because Black, indigenous and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual (LGBTQIA+) people of color are still having their, ‘I can’t breathe moments.’ It’s already so difficult to breathe in a country where it smothers you with systemic oppression such as racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, and xenophobia, and ableism. I think that having it (Pridefest) at Linn Park says we demand that the system be taken off our necks,” said Jackson.

Parade attendees along the route on Birmingham’s south side. (Marika N. Johnson, For The Birmingham Times)

The gathering in Linn Park followed a record-breaking 5,000-plus in attendance at the Pride parade on June 8, drawing the largest crowd in CAP’s history, according to Josh Coleman, president of Central Alabama Pride.

Coleman attributed the record crowd to “people wanting to come together to celebrate … not themselves but with our allies to celebrate Pride Month.”

The CAP director took note of the number of families who attended both the parade and Pridefest. “All of those events are geared toward to be family friendly, and I think it shows … we’re one big family and that Alabama, and particularly Birmingham, has an umbrella where we’re one big tent. We’re starting to see younger generations embrace all communities throughout Alabama to make this a place welcome for everyone.”

During Pridefest, Mayor Randall Woodfin said the “city of Birmingham, for the last 46 years, has stood in solidarity with Central Pride of Alabama… today is about celebrating inclusion, it’s about standing in solidarity, it’s also about supporting everyone’s identity in this community,”

Over 3,500 people attended the festival in Linn Park as multitude of vendors lined the pathways in the park, several booths gave out free contraceptive along and Narcan and the Jefferson County Department of Health conducted free testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), or sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) patrons on site.

Read Freely Alabama, a volunteer group of citizens who oppose censorship in local libraries was also present. “I’ve been affiliated (Read Freely Alabama) since December, but we’ve been going since last summer. We’re not even a year old,” said volunteer Dasha Maye.

“As the scale of censorship efforts and attacks on libraries have expanded across the state, we have grown to meet that challenge,” said Maye. “When the book ban started happening, a group of moms you said this cannot happen. They took to Facebook groups, they started going to city council, they started going to local board meetings, and just paying more attention to try and fight back.”

The main stage included performances from local acts to several RuPaul Drag Race All-stars along with special performances from 90’s hit “Freak Like Me” singer, Adina Howard and Robin S.