“It’s 10 YEARS!! YES 10 OF PRIDE!” Michael Barnard Jenkins said with excitement when asked about Augusta Pride. “It is worth coming out to celebrate, not just for Augusta Pride’s Anniversary, but come out to celebrate Stonewall’s 50th anniversary! Without that we would not be here today!!!” That is right, this year the city of Augusta will be celebrating 10 years of Pride!
The event that covers all of Board street with rainbows and love is the largest event in the month of June for the city of Augusta, bringing in a 1.28Million in economic impact on the city. “It wasn’t always easy,” says Michael, the vice president of Augusta Pride. “10 years ago, we didn’t know what to expect, being in the south and forming an LGBTQ festival is scary, not knowing if the city would accept us. However, the local LGBTQ community was extremely supportive with all from our funding coming from local individuals, to only expecting hundreds to show up, but we were wrong! The city estimated 3,500-4,000 the first year!”
But why is Augusta Pride so important? “Augusta Pride provides a safe place for people to express themselves and come out and know that its ok to be who you are and to be around people that love you and support you and that in it-self means so much as our youth may not have family that is supportive or a place that feels like home, that is why Augusta Pride is important”
Michael goes on to share what impact of the festival has for the people. “Augusta Pride gives people a safe space to be who you are, not only do we do that, but we give people that are traveling from smaller towns near by the chance to have the freedom to be themselves and not be scared to hold their partners hand or kiss in public. Smaller towns outside of Augusta may not be as accepting and I think that Augusta Pride provides a great platform to express yourself, find yourself, and connect to available resources. Just a few years ago a kid had written on one of the banners that he was coming out at the festival because of pride and that melted my heart. We are doing something that impacts lives. Augusta has changed my life! The LGBT community here feels like a family, we are a close community that is always stepping up to the plate to lend each other a helping hand.”
The city Augusta is a very supportive city, how the bigger problems are more of a state wide issue. In Georgia, there still isn’t hate crime laws in place. There also are not any laws to protect LGBT people from discrimination and conversion therapy is still legal in Georgia. Augusta Pride is building bridges to make sure that no-one should be discriminated against based on their gender identity, race, or sexual orientation.
“Becoming the VP of Augusta Pride is such an honor,” Michael says, “it is giving back to our community and being part of something much larger than myself.” While there some programs Augusta pride is currently working on that cannot be announced yet, Augusta Pride does promise that this year’s Pride will be one to remember! “Just have fun, be yourself, and bring a friend! We have some amazing headliners and vendors for everyone to enjoy for the 10th anniversary of Augusta Pride!”