Following controversy, Sarasota Pride renews focus ahead of Pride Fest 2017

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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SARASOTA | As the Sarasota LGBTQ community and its allies readied themselves for Pride Fest 2017 on Oct. 21, Sarasota Pride board members and community leaders met to renew the upcoming celebration’s focus.

“Perception is a reality and the past 48 hours has proven that statement to be true,” Joél Pozo, Berry Ayers (Beneva Fruitville) and Sarasota Pride released in a joint statement following an Oct. 3 meeting. “Everyone in this community has a voice and that has been reflected in our collaboration.”

The meeting materialized in response to community controversy. “Organizers of Sarasota Pride are not allowing drag queens to perform,” Sarasotan Joél Pozo shared via social media ahead of the event. “Make sure you let them know how you feel about it!”

Community members apparently did just that.

“When people feel unheard, it is important that they have a place at this table,” the joint statement advises. “After a gathering of opinions came together to discuss misconceptions, the feeling of underrepresentation, and inclusiveness with the celebration of our communities’ pride, we are pleased to announce an even stronger bond is now present.”

The statement further advises that Pride Fest 2017 will indeed feature members of both the Drag King and Drag Queen communities, noting that “this event should always and will continue to celebrate all aspects of the LGBTQIA people in Sarasota and surrounding areas.”

Ahead of the celebration, Sarasota Pride’s leadership will reach out to venues and performers to ensure both an inclusive and diverse Pride Fest and Pride Weekend. “Looking to the future, we are actively working on combining voices to establish open communication within the entire community,” the statement continues. “In an effort to reduce separation, Sarasota Pride has welcomed with open arms those that felt removed from the planned Pride Fest Schedule. Thank you to all who voiced their opinion.”

“Make no mistake,” the statement concludes, “this is a victory for everyone.”

Residents and community members celebrated the news via social media, but some remained cautious. “Queens and Kings started the movement and it’s important to ALWAYS remember it,” Tampa Bay entertainer Kathryn Nevets responded to the announcement.

“It’s great that you finally decided to include them as WE are the ones on the front lines EVERY TIME we are on that stage,” Nevets continued.

Sarasota’s Pride Fest 2017 will be held Oct. 21 from 12-6 at J.D. Hammel Park. For more information and a full lineup of pre-parties, after-parties and performances, visit sarasotapride.org or sarasotaout.com.

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