Meet your 2013 St. Pete Pride grand marshals

By : Steve Blanchard
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This year, St. Pete Pride let the community decide who it would like representing them at Florida’s largest LGBT Pride celebration. Nominees were divided into three categories: male identified, female identified and community group.

Nearly 4,000 votes rolled into the St. Pete Pride website and Mark Bias and Carrie West were named male grand marshals, Susan McGrath was selected as the female grand marshal and the Metro Wellness and Community Centers represents the group category.

Here is a quick introduction to our 2013 grand marshals:

MeetYourMarshals_CarrieWestandMarkBiasCARRIE WEST AND MARK BIAS
There really is no other couple in Tampa Bay that is more of a “staple” than Carrie West and Mark Bias, who happen to be founding members of St. Pete Pride. The pair moved to Tampa in 1980 from the Midwest and opened their first MC Film store in 1989 and it has seen six different locations on both sides of the bay. The pair just reached “35 years of bliss,” as they say, and are founders of the GaYbor District Coalition.

  • St. Pete Pride celebrations attended: All
  • What being a Grand Marshal means: “It means that the community has noticed our hard efforts in making Tampa Bay a better place to live, work, be educated, volunteer, socialize and have fun while enjoying life. We both are committed to work hard for Human rights and LGBT causes making for a better equal and fair community.”
  • On St. Pete Pride’s influence on equality gains: “St Pete Pride is so different than other Prides we have attended around the country. City political leaders are witnessing the positive energy our community offers. And we are winning some of those political offices in both St. Pete and across the waters in Tampa.
  • The definition of Pride: “Pride is who we are, Mark & Carrie! We don’t believe in second fiddle if you get our drift!”
  • Advice for other couples: As a couple, you not only represent the “male” aspect of the grand marshals, but also partners and couples. Bias says, “Alcohol.” West says, “Laughter.” “You have to work at it just like having a successful job,” West adds. “We have a very unique relationship. Working together, cooking, listening, relaxing, snoring, understanding, sleeping together 24/7. It’s been 35 years together and it seems like we just met yesterday.”

MeetYourMarshals_SusanMcGrathSUSAN MCGRATH
Susan McGrath is a Tampa Bay native and grew up in Bradenton before settling in St. Petersburg. She currently lives in the Historic Kenwood neighborhood and is the president of the Stonewall Democrats of Pinellas County.

  • St. Pete Pride celebrations attended: All but one.
  • What being a Grand Marshal means: “The message I want to promote is important and that’s what convinced me to pursue the grand marshal role.”
  • On St. Pete Pride’s influence on equality gains: “Change comes through education and exposure. People see that their neighbors, their accountants, their kid’s teachers are gay or even transgender and the stereotypes and the misperceptions begin to melt away.”
  • The definition of Pride: “Pride means everyone is welcome and we are all equal. Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin says, ‘If you’re not at the table, you’re probably on the menu.’ Pride is the celebration of how far we’ve come and our vision for what the future looks like.”
  • Advice on continuing equality’s success: “Progress is being made every day, but it only happens when we’re all in the game. If you want a world where we’re all treated fairly, are protected from workplace discrimination and can marry the one we love, we have to work for it. Support the people that support you and your family. Make phone calls, knock doors or give a few dollars. Then, by all means, vote and get everyone you know to do the same. It’s too important. We can change the world, and we are, but it starts with us.”

METRO WELLNESS AND COMMUNITY CENTERS
This year’s community group is committed to providing premier HIV services, social networking, LGBT programs and other health and wellness programs to enhance the quality of life for the local community in Tampa Bay. Metro has been serving the community for 20 years.

  • St. Pete Pride celebrations attended: All of them.
  • What being a Grand Marshal means: The role of any Grand Marshal is to exemplify the best in St. Petersburg and Tampa Bay – to be role models for those in the community. Metro hopes to continue to go above and beyond in serving the LGBT and allied communities both with our community centers and HIV services.
  • On St. Pete Pride’s influence on equality gains: “Pride events today are more about celebration than activism. However, it’s important to remember how visibility of our community increases acceptance and equality among the greater population. There are still many people in our area that we serve who that don’t feel free to be who they are day to day in their families, jobs or communities. Events like St. Pete Pride provide that acceptance – a chance to be proud of who you are and showcase the diverse community that we are all so proud of here in St. Petersburg.
  • The definition of Pride: “Pride is part of everything we do,” says CEO Lorraine Langlois. “Metro’s programs and services exist because of a need in the community. Through our programs, case management, counseling and social activities we extend that hope and pride into the people that walk through our doors. From youth to seniors to those affected by HIV – all of the LGBT community – our programs empower them to live to their fullest potential and be proud every day.”
  • On Metro’s influence: Metro celebrates its 20th anniversary and has big plans for the future. We continue to grow and extend LGBT activities and programs so that everyone can enjoy the centers. Our Center in Ybor City will start offering full medical services this month. We’ll be opening up a similar medical clinic in our St. Pete Center within the coming months. By the end of the year – we’ll open our LGBT Welcome Center right in the heart of the Grand Central District and St. Pete Pride route. This project, sponsored by Visit Florida, will be only the second LGBT Welcome Center in the country and will serve as a hub for visitors and residents alike.

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