- Nick Marek Photography
After a year of social distancing with no traditional Pride events, two of Oklahoma City’s LGBTQ+ organizations prepare to celebrate with in-person events.
The Oklahoma City Pride Alliance hosts their official Pride festivities downtown the weekend of June 25-27. OKC Pride Inc. will host their events in September because of ongoing construction at the city’s LGBTQ+ district.
Oklahoma City Pride Alliance
This year’s theme is “Rainbow Revolution.” This will mark the first time a Pride parade and celebration takes place in the heart of OKC, which Pride Alliance President Hannah Royce said fits well with their theme.
“It is a revolutionary act that we’re taking it downtown and out of a street that was coined to be the only place for us,” Royce said. “Truthfully, we exist everywhere, and we always have existed everywhere – from Deep Deuce to the east side to the south side – we are in every crack and crevice.”
The three-day festival kicks off at 5 p.m. June 25 at Scissortail Park with a performance at 9pm by headliner Greyson Chance, a singer-songwriter and Oklahoma native who went viral in 2010 for his performance of Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi” at a middle school talent show.
“This is sort of Greyson’s homecoming,” Royce said. “This is really important for our youth – to see that even though you can grow, and you can stretch beyond our city, there’s nothing wrong with being so proud of this place that you call it home forever, and that we invest our time and love in it. That’s really the message that Pride Alliance and Greyson are ready to give on Friday night.”
The parade will be at 10 a.m. June 26, starting at the corner of Sheridan and Shartel avenues, continuing east until Hudson Avenue, then going south until reaching Scissortail Park. The farmer’s market will also be happening from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 26 in the park.
“Scissortail Park’s tagline is that it’s a park for everyone, and it’s a really neutral territory in the heartbeat of the city,” Royce said. “Making waves and taking up space in this way is something I know Greyson’s ready to do. We’re ready to do, and I think a lot of the city is ready to do with us.”
After the parade, Royce said they will be hosting a “town hall” to honor this year’s grand marshals. Pride Alliance will continue a theme they set in 2019 to honor a legend and a rebel. This year’s legend is Paula Sophia, a transgender woman and LGBTQ+ activist who previously ran for the Oklahoma House of Representatives. The rebel is Mauree Turner, who made history in 2020 for becoming the first nonbinary state legislator in US history and the first Muslim lawmaker in Oklahoma.
Throughout the weekend, there will be 40 vendors along the park’s main walkway along Robinson Avenue. The Sky Rink at Scissortail Park will also have a full schedule of events all weekend, including a drag-on-wheels show with Shalula and opportunities for people to skate. Sunbeam will sponsor the Family Zone in the park’s Play Pavilion, bringing activities and resources for children and families all weekend.
“A lot of volunteers have come together to make that Family Zone super special,” Royce said. “They’ll have other family resources from Sunbeam and some of their partners. … We’re really excited because we know queer families exist, and they’re worthy of a whole Family Zone that’s just for them.”
Sunday, June 27 will be a wellness day, beginning with yoga on the park’s Great Lawn, and wrapping up with closing ceremonies at 3 p.m.
Royce hopes to be able to leverage the expected economic impact into ways to be better funded and provide opportunities for LGBTQ+ Oklahomans. Pride Alliance is already committing to giving 5 percent of their annual budget out through various micro grants to local queer artists. They hope to announce the full program in the fall.
The Festival of the Arts will also be ongoing through the same weekend, but Royce said they’ve been working with that group and the city to ensure there is synergy between the events. In terms of parking, Royce said they will be helping people navigate where to park through social media and marketing efforts. She encourages people to take advantage of the OKC Streetcar, which will be free.
“Unless you are queer, and you have been to a Pride surrounded by people for the first time or the first time in a long time, and you finally feel that internalized homophobia go away; that’s salvation,” Royce said. “It’s hard for us to actually pinpoint it because it’s so intrinsic. Pride is a feeling, and everyone wants that feeling. There’s a hunger for it, a desire for it. That’s why, it doesn’t matter where it is because Pride is a people. Pride is us.”
OKC Pride Inc.
Due to ongoing street enhancements on NW 39th Street, the city’s historic LGBTQ+ district, OKC Pride Inc. will host their celebrations Sept. 24-26, though they do plan to return to June events in the future.
Adam Reese, OKC Pride Inc. president, said they don’t expect the street enhancements to interfere with their events.
“Hopefully they’ll be 100 percent done, but at the minimum, they may just have some bushes and plants and trees to finish up after Pride,” he said. “But they will come to a stopping point, let us do our celebration for the weekend, and come back and finish up if they have anything to finish up.”
The street enhancements are being made to the area bounded by NW 39th Street on the south, NW 40th Street on the north, Pennsylvania Avenue to the east and Youngs Boulevard to the west. The street will be widened with added on-street parking, lighting and a sidewalk.
“It will make the area well-lit, extremely safe for pedestrians and cars, and it’s going to add more parking than it will take away. It’s going to be phenomenal when it’s done,” Reese said. “We’re super excited that the city has invested in this area.”
OKC Pride’s theme came from suggestions via Facebook, “There’s No Place Like Home… Respecting Our Past, Welcoming Our Future.” The three-day celebration includes a festival with vendors, entertainment, and the parade.
“We’re making sure that this year is the best it possibly can be in the short amount of time that we have,” he said. “We have some amazing talent that we’re lining up, but I can’t announce that until we actually have the binding contract. I’m chomping at the bit, ready to announce that, though, because I think it’s going to be one of the best Prides that 39th Street District has seen. We’ve got one big headliner that I am so excited to announce.”
Reese encourages people who want to be involved with OKC Pride Inc. to attend their open meeting, which happens on the second Monday of each month at Hilton Garden Inn.
The organization’s Facebook page and website will be updated with more information leading up to September.
“Pride is about the community. Pride is about all of us and everyone’s identity. I want us to all play nice together,” he said. “There’s room for more than one Pride in this community.”
Visit okcpride.org.Rocky relationship
Despite both organizations working on Pride events for LGBTQ+ Oklahomans and even collaborating in the past, their relationship has soured.
In December 2020, John Gibbons, president of 39th Street District and former member of OKC Pride Inc., filed a lawsuit against Pride Alliance. The basis of the lawsuit was on the “unlawful dissolution of OKC Pride” and the “transfer of all of OKC Pride’s assets to OKC Pride Alliance” in late 2019.
In early 2019, Pride Inc. was dealing with the fallout of an embezzlement scandal that ultimately caused the group to fall apart.
Lauren Zuniga, former director of 39th Street, previously told Oklahoma Gazette that the district almost hosted the Pride festivities, but due to the group’s status as a 501(c)(4) status, she decided to step down to form the 501(c)(3) nonprofit Pride Alliance, which fully organized the official Pride events in 2019. Those events were touted by city and LGBTQ+ leaders as the most attended and successful Pride celebrations in city history.
Court records in the lawsuit filed by Gibbons allege that Zuniga was asked to resign for taking those actions “without permission or consent.” Court records also allege that because the Pride Alliance events were “much larger” than what 39th Street District Association had envisioned, they severed ties with Zuniga and Pride Alliance.
Pride Alliance denies these claims.
However, both groups agree that in 2019 three members of the board of directors of OKC Pride Inc. held a special meeting and decided to dissolve the group and transfer any remaining assets to Pride Alliance shortly after.
Judge Aletia Haynes Timmons ruled that the special meeting and the “attempted dissolution” were both against the group’s own bylaws. She ordered that OKC Pride Inc. be reinstated, that Pride Alliance return all property of OKC Pride Inc, and that Pride Alliance are no longer allowed to use the term “‘OKC Pride’ or any other confusingly similar variation” without the use of any other modifiers. Pride Alliance was also ordered to no longer use “OKC Pride” or “Oklahoma City Pride” domains.
Royce said that no assets were ever actually transferred from OKC Pride Inc. to Pride Alliance because the funds were restitution money from the lawsuit against the former president that embezzled money from the group. That restitution money was held by the Oklahoma County District Attorney.
“So everything that the Pride Alliance utilized or built in 2019 when we formed was ours. Nothing was given back to them other than we took down our domain,” Royce said. “We are still in litigation. … My last update was that they are willing to wind that down because they have been able to reorganize the former OKC Pride Inc.”
Reese said the lawsuit was important because it was about OKC Pride Inc. being recognized as the historic organization it is.
“It has been the official Pride of 39th Street District for over 30 years, and that was the whole purpose of the lawsuit. Saying, ‘We’re here. We’re still here, and we continue to exist. You can’t just dissolve a 30+ year organization,’” Reese said. “The biggest part of it is the history of the organization, and the level of support that we’ve had has been tremendous from the community.”
Both organizations have expressed interest in moving on from the lawsuit.
“We’re not giving up on 39th Street, our relationships, or any of that. Every beating heart is a part of the collective, and that’s what this work is about,” Royce said. “We don’t cancel people. We don’t kick people out…. We bring them in. We have those tough conversations, and then we get back to work.”
- Nick Marek Photography
Hot Pink (Sex/Liberation) — Adele Wolf (she/her)
Adele started the Oklahoma Burlesque Festival and has shown extreme liberation and body positivity through her expressions in burlesque and other talents.
Red (Life) — Cynthia Garcia (she/Ella)
Cynthia Garcia is receiving the color Red for Life because of her tireless work through United We Dream for our undocumented community members locally and globally.
Orange (Healing) — The Center at the University of Central Oklahoma
The Center serves as a site of information, research, grant funding and advocacy for issues regarding women, gender and sexuality. The Center also acts as a resource for the BGLTQ+ community, a crucial community meeting place and an educational resource.
Yellow (Sunlight/Visibility) — Tyreke Baker and The Black Times (he/him)
Ty and his team at The Black Times have been showing us what activism through journalism looks like the last year and we’re so proud of all they’ve accomplished in such a short amount of time.
Green (Nature/Environmentalism/Conservation) — Katrina Ward (she/her) and the 23rd Street Community Garden
Katrina Ward started the 23rd Street Community Garden last year. It is queer, neurodivergent, disabled, multi-generational, anti-capitalist, gender non-confirming, trans, Indigenous, and a lot of fun.
Turquoise (Magic/Art - Drag/Creatives/Artists) — Am’re Ford (he/him) of Arts in Action and Fire in Little Africa
Indigo (Serenity) — Dr. Kate Arnold and Phil Burke at Variety Care
This team at Variety Care are working hard to build out real safety for queer people and provide gender-affirming health resources for them.
Violet (Spirit) — Adriana Laws (she/her) at the Collegiate Freedom and Justice Society
Brought the true meaning of Pride to every protest and direct action she planned last summer and continues to show her spirit through activism as a Black queer woman.