Central Florida’s largest Pride event will honor heroes this year, and Stuart Milk, nephew of legendary gay politician and activist Harvey Milk, will take center stage. Stuart Milk will serve as Grand Marshal for the 2009 Orlando Come Out With Pride (COWP) Parade. The day-long expo, festival and parade—organized by the Metropolitan Business Association (MBA)—is scheduled for October 11 at Lake Eola.
“The event will honor the LGBT community’s unflinching, steadfast determination to achieve full equality for all citizens through celebration of our heroes, our victories, and ourselves,” said Dr. David Baker-Hargrove, MBA president.
Baker-Hargrove said more than 45,000 people attended last year’s event, and they expect similar attendance numbers this year.
“Since its inception in 2005, Come Out With Pride has gotten bigger and better each year, shattering attendance records and offering exceptional entertainment,” he said.
This year’s line-up will feature national recording artist Ari Gold, whose songs “Where the Music Takes You” and “Human” have hit Billboard’s Dance Charts Top 10. Gold has been honored as one of Metro Source’s “25 People That Make Us Proud,” and one of Genre’s “Men We Love.” He was named one of the “100 People That Influence Gay Culture” by OUT magazine.
Gold also uses his music to advance equal rights. His song “Home” is part of the Human Rights Campaign’s benefit album, Love Rocks, along with music by Melissa Etheridge and Christina Aguilera. “Bashert (Meant To Be)” appears on the ACLU benefit CD Marry Me, released in an effort to secure the rights of same sex couples.
Milk, who is gay and resides in Wilton Manors, is no stranger to LGBT rights battles in the Sunshine State. In March, more than 700 people heard him address a rally against anti-gay discrimination at Florida’s capitol in Tallahassee. The dynamic Milk also joined Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to dedicate the Harvey Milk Administration Building at the Job Corps Center in San Francisco. It is the first federal government building named for an openly gay person.
“I still hear politicians talking about ‘tolerance’ of the LGBT community,” Milk said. “Harvey would not have let them get away with it. My uncle did not want to be tolerated. He wanted all of us to be embraced.”
In a recent Watermark interview (Issue 16.04), the noted employment development specialist talked about his uncle’s murder.
“It was the defining moment in my life,” he said. “And I’ve heard from many people that it was a defining moment for them, too. His death created a wave. He opened things up and showed us that we don’t need to hide.”
COWP organizers are also planning a kickoff party for October 8, with details to be released in the coming weeks. The event weekend is scheduled to coincide with National Coming Out Day on October 11.
October is also Gay & Lesbian History Month, and the Festival will include a month-long history exhibit tracing highlights of Central Florida’s LGBT community. A miniature version of that exhibit will be on display at the October 11 COWP main event in an air-conditioned tent sponsored by Darden Restaurants. The exhibit, including photographs, memorabilia and artifacts can be previewed at GayOrlandoHistory.com. Organizers are still collecting donated memorabilia.
Different ways to participate in COWP are posted at www.comeoutwithpride.com, including sponsorship opportunities, vendor and exhibitor applications, parade applications and instructions, and volunteer opportunities.