Monday, June 20, 2011

The Sweetest Hangover

I'm a bit late in reporting back, but Motor City Pride in Hart Plaza was amazing.  And if you've ever been to ANY Pride before, you know walking away saying it was anything better than "fine" is unusual.  But it really was.  I was so ... proud.

Organizers estimate 44,000 people attended over the two days, which is incredible.  Between the Lines did a nice writeup of the event, so instead of re-hashing it all, I'll link to it here.  Let's just sum up and say it was incredibly diverse, Oakland County did not stay away, and everyone seemed to have a really great time.

The rainbow stripes on the Ren Cen were one of my favorite things!

Other local media did the obligatory puff piece with photo gallery of all the festival gayness (yours truly not excepted), which I thought was pretty lame given the fact this marked a gigantic jump in visibility in an area with essentially none.  I mean FOR REAL - it was big news that Movement/Electronic Music Festival had 99,000 over three days, but 44,000 local GLBT people gets the boilerplate article?  I guess the story was only interesting when Ferndale Pride and Motor City Pride were at odds with each other.

About that ... apparently by the time June rolled around, most animosity about Pride's move seemed to have dissipated, and from what I heard the Ferndale events were nicely attended and everyone was happy.  I fully intended on checking it out but the addition of a Pride parade on Sunday morning meant any free time was filled planning for that.  Maybe next year I'll plan better.

In Detroit, everyone is a star! Especially Robert M. Nelson!

Everything else went great too.  The Pride Project came together beautifully and I got great feedback from both the Detroit indy businesses that supported Pride as well as the folks at Motor City Pride and Equality Michigan about it.  I even had some other businesses approach me to be included next year!  Please be sure to check out that website again and thank (and patronize!) anyone who participated!

A few very nice posters of the Pride Project placed around
Hart Plaza attracted no end of attention.

Finally, the Friday night Pre-Pride Doggy Style was out of control.  Who knew a downtown gay night on a Friday could attract so many people?  Someone open a downtown neighborhood gay bar NOW.

People who need Doggy Style are the luckiest people in the world.
After all the Pride Projecting and Doggy Styling and Fierce Hot Messing and Hart Plaza-ing and Parading and everything, I was the closest to exhaustion I've been in my adult life.  If I had a normal job I'd have had to call in "Proud" on Monday, I was that worn out.  To me, that's a great Pride.

The most incredible thing about this Pride was that for the first time since I moved to Detroit, I actually really felt like being gay here was totally normal.  I mean as completely normal as it would be in Chicago or Washington, DC or Boston or anywhere else I've lived.  Everywhere you went there were gay people or rainbow flags or just people asking how Pride was going.

In my email to business owners for the Pride Project I said that Motor City Pride moving downtown had the potential to change perceptions about Detroit in a way that hasn't happened since the Superbowl was here in 2006.  In the way Pride exceeded every expectation, I really believe that was the case.  What I didn't expect was that it was going to change the way *I* thought about Detroit.

The whole weekend left me feeling a little feisty, like maybe it's OK to say that something can just be GAY for its own sake without people getting defensive or worrying that people will feel left out.  (It's Detroit, for God's sake. The Island of Misfit Toys.  Everybody belongs.)  By foregoing a gay identity in the name of not offending anyone, we actually diminish our ability to create our own community, raise our own visibility and maximize the positive impact we could be having on Detroit.

This post is long enough without hashing out all that in 2000 words or less, so let's just say Pride left me thinking "what if ..." a lot for a long time afterward.  And it's been a while since I really looked at Detroit that way.  I'm sure I'll elaborate soon enough.

SO! It's been a recuperative and reflective couple of weeks, and that's why it's taken so long for even a little reporting back.  But now that I can finally deal with this stuff again ...

Double Rainbow: Oh My God!

This Tuesday night is a big gay double feature, starting with the Model D Speaker series "Gay Detroit"!  Join an expert panel of judges as we discuss the state of gay culture & community in Detroit.  I'll be sitting on the panel in my first official public appearance.  It's a real Detroit gay meet-and-greet!

The event is followed by a Town Hall discussion presented by Unity Michigan.  The Model D panel will be a little more community-oriented (and certainly City-oriented), and we'll let the folks with Unity Michigan handle the heavy stuff.

To make it extra special, there's a post-panel Doggy Style!  Yes, you can't get enough!  It all happens at the Park Bar, starting upstairs at 5:30 and ending sometime after midnight in the gutter.  Please join us, and help keep the Pride momentum going!

Model D Speaker Series: Gay Detroit
Charles Pugh of Detroit City Council, Roland Leggett of Equality Michigan, Kirsten Ussery of the Downtown Detroit Partnership and Villages CDC, and me.
Tuesday, June 21, 5:30 - 6:30pm
The Park Bar, 2040 Park Ave. (upstairs)
Pre-registration is encouraged.

Unity Michigan Town Hall: Equality Action
Denise Brogan-Kator from Equality Michigan, Shellie Wiesberg from the ACLU, Curtis Lipscomb from KICK, and Laura Hughes from Ruth Ellis Center.
 7:00 - 8:30pm

Hot DP (Double Panel) Doggy Style Action!
9pm - ?

Friday, June 3, 2011

Downtown Roundup for Pride

Motor City Pride weekend is here!  I was talking to a bunch of friends last night and everyone is so excited - it's like we live in a different city.  Last year I was in San Francisco for their Pride, and while I readily admit the level of planning and number of festivities was much greater there, the anticipation for the event in Detroit this year seems about on par with that.  And if that's not progress I don't know what is.

The Pride Project was an overwhelming success.  Forty-five independent businesses from Corktown, Midtown, Woodbridge, Eastern Market, New Center and the Central Business District participated, and together as the Greater Downtown Independent Merchants we raised over $7000 for Motor City Pride. The group is a sponsor at the Gold Level, the highest sponsorship level this year!

Please visit our extra special website to see all the great downtown businesses that chipped in.  Visit them this weekend while you are out and about, and throughout the year!  They are our friends and a fantastically supportive community, and I can't send them enough love.

OK, so onto the festivities!  There is a lot going on at Hart Plaza, most notably a bunch of us city-dwellers will be hanging out at our booth in Sponsor's Row, just as you enter the festival.  Stop by and say hello!

But there's also a lot going around downtown of special interest for Pride attendees as well. Here is a rundown of things you'll want to take advantage of this weekend.

Visit my little contribution to downtown's alternative gay scene tonight!  The very special Motor City Pride edition of Doggy Style takes place at the Park Bar from 9-2, with a painstakingly curated mix of highly entertaining music videos.  All the cool kids will be there!

If you head downtown for the Saturday component of Pride, it's a quick two blocks to the Grand Trunk Pub.  They are always a good spot to visit and as a special extra for Pride, DJ GM (or as you may know him better, Greg Mudge, proprietor of Mudgie's Deli in Corktown) will be spinning all afternoon and evening.  They have a great patio, great eats and if you are a beer lover, they have fifteen craft beers on tap.  Which are also great!

Of special interest, Saturday is the date for the annual Historic Indian Village Home and Garden Tour, which is always lovely and you can hit before Pride starts Saturday afternoon.  Tickets are $20 there is more info at their website.  See Sunday's activities for more info on tours of the Villages!

Saturday night, another mainstay on the downtown scene, Fierce Hot Mess, is having its third anniversary party AND Official Pride Afterparty at Oslo!  "Messy dance floor decadence, fierce music and hot people, converging in one place to create a distinct Detroit experience that is sure to be remembered."   Our favorite dj's, Mike Trombley and Chuck Hampton (aka Gay Marvine) always play the most amazing music!

If you are looking to mix things up on Saturday night, you can also check out the Cupcake Collective at the Old Miami, where they present All OUT Detroit: A Very Special Cruise.  They will be playing electro, disco, house, hip-hop and soul all night, and part of the proceeds go to benefit the Ruth Ellis Center.

Sunday morning is the all-new Pride parade!  It starts at Griswold north of Lafayette (think Lafayette Coney Island area) and goes down to Hart Plaza.  Who knows what it will be like?  Probably awesomely home-grown.  I'll be walking with the "Robert M. Nelson presents a Salute to Robert M. Nelson, with Robert M. Nelson and the Detroit friends of Robert M. Nelson" float.  Who is Robert M. Nelson?  Find out at 11am on Sunday!

When you are at the Pride festival, make sure you check out the DJ set by Macho City's Mike Trombley at 5 on Sunday!

Wind down after Pride at Cafe D'Mongo's!  Larry is opening especially for us "in honor of your parade" and I expect a lively afterparty at everyone's fave watering hole will be the perfect way to end a fun weekend.  Come by for drinks and Robert M. Nelson will show you how he puts the "easy" in "speakeasy."

Some of the sponsors in the Pride Program are making special offers just for Motor City Pride attendees.

Wheelhouse Detroit is located right on the riverfront, and you can rent a bike and do a little exploring.  It's so fun to bike around downtown and Sunday in particular is supposed to be GORGEOUS.  If you show your Pride sticker (you know, the one they give you when you enter Motor City Pride) you can get 20% off rentals, so two hours is only $10 and a full day is only $25!  Those Wheelhouse girls are the best.

Avalon is giving a 10% discount off your purchase for the weekend if you tell the retail staff a piece of local or national GLBT trivia.  Which will be really easy to do if you read Tim Retzloff's great op-ed in this week's excellent issue of Between the Lines.  Buy cookies and bring them to us at Hart Plaza!

Inside Detroit, the downtown's unofficial chamber of commerce and home of the Detroit Segway tour, has a great retail shop inside the Welcome Center in Merchant's Row.  They sell tons of unique Detroit apparel and locally-made items, and they are offering 15% off in honor of Pride weekend!

While you are at Pride, be sure to stop by the booth for The Villages of Detroit because they are offering three FREE one-hour bus tours that leave from Hart Plaza.  It won't be as in-depth as the Indian Village Home & Garden Tour on Saturday, but it will give you a great overview of all the Villages, and there will be one stop to visit a gay-owned home on the tour!

Also in the home tour category (but separate from Pride), Corktown is presenting their Historical Home & Garden Tour on Sunday from 12-5. It's not specifically for Pride but who doesn't love a home tour?

Finally, when you are at Pride, stop by the booth for the Spirit of Hope Church, where our friend Pastor Matt is running a GLBT trivia contest.  Answer questions on gay politics, music, society and religion and get a chance to win a gift card from a Detroit Pride Project business!

That's all I've got for now.  See you at Motor City Pride!
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