Friday, May 6, 2011

The Pride Project

For me, one of the most frustrating things to come out of the discussion about Motor City Pride moving to Hart Plaza from Ferndale was this leitmotif that Detroit is not as gay-friendly as Ferndale.  It's been mentioned in comments on Facebook (although the Motor City Pride page is pretty aggressive about removing excessively negative comments, a policy I have mixed feelings about) and covered in Between the Lines (be sure to read the comments).

Now I get where this perception comes from.  There have been widespread reports of homophobia in the African-American community in the past, and we've had several civic and community leaders make homophobic remarks over the years.  But let's compare apples to apples.

Ferndale is a community of 19,000 people covering 3.9 square miles.  Detroit is a city of 713,000 people covering 149 square miles.  But the greater downtown area, the area including the Central Business District, Corktown, the Midtown neighborhoods, Lafayette Park & adjacent areas, and Eastern Market, is roughly 16 square miles and approximately 40,000 residents. Essentially that's been my world (with the addition of the Villages and SW Detroit) and it's a better comp than the city as a whole.  And I've never lived anyplace more gay-friendly.

A little over three weeks ago this was rattling around in my brain, trying to figure out how to send the message that Detroit is actually an AWESOME place to live and be gay.  And maybe Motor City Pride moving downtown was an opportunity to show that.

The independent business community downtown is pretty tightly-knit, so I asked a couple friends if they were interested in doing a small sponsorship of Pride that we could bundle together.  And if they thought other business owners would be receptive to the idea.  It turns out they weren't just receptive, they were enthusiastic.

I could never in a million years have anticipated the positive response I received from every friend I approached.  And they approached friends too.  And in the three weeks since we started spreading the word, we've raised over $6500 from a whole slew of downtown independent merchants who are proud to be sponsors of Pride.

See the fact of the matter is, Detroit is the most welcoming city I've ever lived in - and I've been around.  Jim Geary, owner of the Woodbridge Pub, said it even better:
I think this is great for the city and a good public example of the diversity and tolerance that Detroit should be famous for. It is my experience, in the ten years I have lived here, that Detroiters are more tolerant in general, whether it be religion, race, sexual orientation or financial status, than anywhere else I have lived.

So anytime you hear someone say Detroit isn't welcoming to gays, why don't you straighten them out and mention the following list of businesses - the bars, restaurants and retailers who make Detroit as cool as it is - who put their money where their mouth is and jumped at the chance to welcome the regional gay community to Detroit.

I'll share more info about this when this little Downtown Pride Project is done.  I'm still approaching folks - these are just the people my friends and I knew personally who'd committed by last night.  If you don't see your favorite downtown spot on here, why not ask them about it? Hit me up at the email to the left, I'd love them to help roll out the gay welcome mat!


Matthew said...

Thanks for putting this out there, Joe! Your point was impressed upon me a few weeks ago when I asked the Burton Theatre guys what they had planned for the summer. One of the first things they mentioned was an LGBT film series to celebrate Pride's move into the city.

Anonymous said...

So, looking at the schedule for June 3-5, it appears Ferndale is going ahead with various "pride" events.... marches, rallies, alley and patio parties. I mean WTF? I'm a bad ghey in that I don't often go to Ferndale to stand in a parking lot to drink beer on a june weekend, so I probably don't have room to comment, but seriously? now we're going to have competing Prides on the same day!?!

I'm a fan of the move as it'll be a chance to come downtown via boat and use the really nice and totally empty Miliken docks. Hopefully the competing prides don't f it up and keep the one in Downtown from taking off.

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