Brightly colored people in brightly colored, meticulously decorated cars and floats dotted the streets like patches. The energy of the day was ahead of them all as they anxiously awaited their Pride to unfold.

Everyone gathered in the center of the street ready to loudly shout to those waiting, “I belong." The courage and forethought of the day was evident. There were so many near and far that participated in the many months of planning to parade down the 10+ blocks of downtown St. Louis to the roars of those proudly waiting to shout back: “We belong too."

St. Louis PrideFest is the one of the leading events each year that gives those in the LGBTQIA+ community a time to gather. Everyone gets to see old friends, to share time with local and out of town loved ones. The thing about this year’s Pride celebration was the unspoken, underlying truth that this year was very different. In light of the recent shooting at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida on June 12, 2016 where a gunman killed 49 innocent victims - this is understandable. This led me to ask several Pride goers why they were here.

“Oh, my goodness. I would never stay home because somebody tried to do something out of hate," said Sharon Spurlock of St. Charles, Mo. who was with her whole family. "This is a place to be together with our community and share our love and share our joy of being who we are. I would never miss it.”

There were so many interesting people like George Bieniek who proudly showed me the 6x6 foot cloth Orlando Panel he designed where the name of each victim was placed and Pride attendees could sign.

“I designed the Orlando panel and I came here because they don’t win," he said with a smile. "Love is better than hate. This is our tribute to the 49 victims. We are taking the donations for today only but I want everyone to continue to donate to the groups who are still taking donations for all of the victims who are still recovering. By being here they don’t win.”

George is a volunteer with the Names Project. This Project is dedicated to keeping the names of loved ones lost to HIV/AIDS alive. Established in 1987, The AIDS Memorial Quilt was created by LGBT/AIDS Activist, Cleve Jones and is preserved by The NAMES Project Foundation. This foundation is a non-profit whose mission is to preserve, care for and use The Quilt to foster healing, heighten awareness and inspire action in the struggle against HIV and AIDS. The Orlando panel will be sent there too.

Saluting all passers by was another Orlando tribute (there were many this weekend) that lined the walkway of the grass by the vendor area. This tribute was simple with the names of each victim written on a card in calligraphy and attached to an American flag placed in the ground. The tribute appeared to solemnly greet everyone who walked to and fro.

Through all of this I had to ask myself why I was here. I mean I heard so many times that some people may not come because “bad things” may happen. I thought long and hard and it boiled down to the opportunity to be a part of an amazing experience.


I believed that just like something “bad” could happen, something amazingly great could happen also. I made the choice to go and find an amazing experience. I found it in the faces of smiling, healthy LGBTQIA+ families and friends who lined the streets cheering as the parade passed by. I found it in the faces of the moms and dads with their children eating funnel cakes and drinking lemonade. I found that amazingly great experience in the church leaders who prayed and stood with the community on this 1 year anniversary marking marriage equality. I found it while being reminded of the awesome ally and LGBTQIA+ community coming to this one place in spite of the underlying, unspoken threats to freedom. Seeing their presence speaks volumes and all under one beautiful Pride rainbow.




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