On June 4, Washington state’s Olympic Peninsula hosted groundbreaking grassroots Pride celebrations. Local youth community organizers made history and kicked off Clallam County’s Pride weekend with Sequim, Washington’s first ever “Coming Out” Pride Picnic.
Following the success of last year’s first ever Port Angeles Pride on the Pier, SisterLand Farms joined forces with other community businesses and organizations to host an event at BNB Lavender Farm. Catered by the local chapter of Food Not Bombs, the picnic also offered creative art spaces, nail painting tables, a community-clothing swap, a meet-and-greet session to introduce queer elders to local LGBTQ youth, and a story slam hosted by Out Loud Story Slam where participants poured out their souls sharing personal tales of their queer experience. Of course prizes were also awarded to the winner of the Story Slam and “Best Dressed” competition.
“Last year I learned that you don’t have to wait around for your city to organize #Pride. You can just get together with all of your friends … invite the world, and see what goes down. This year, I wanted all of the good feelings from last year … But doubled. Tripled!! And made radical. So on top of marching downtown — thanks to @councilwomancarr [Deputy Mayor of Port Angeles – Navarra Carr] and my other queer Pride Committee doll faces — we’ve got the “Coming Out” Pride Picnic on Saturday the 4th!”Jenson (they/them), founder of SisterLand Farms via Facebook.
Local Sequim, Port Angeles and Forks city governments have not endorsed Pride events. Organizers say while it might be nice to have an official endorsement, seeing the success of these celebrations come from the community really shows how much power our people have. That awareness of our collective power is contagious. The more we start to realize what we are capable of, the more realistic a total change of society becomes.
Pride’s roots are embedded in rebellion and radical resistance. The Stonewall Riots, the birth of what we now know as Pride, was a people’s uprising, an act of self defense in response to relentless, brutal NYPD attacks on the LGBTQ patrons of the Stonewall Inn, mostly BIPOC.
In honor of those rebellious roots, and highlighting the most recent attacks on the LGBTQ community by conservative lawmakers criminalizing their existence, a prisoner letter-writing station was set up focused on connecting the community with LGBTQ prisoner pen-pals from across the nation as well as inmates from the local Clallam Bay Corrections Center and other Washington prisons.
The letter-writing organizers also set up a laptop and encouraged attendees to email government officials in support of two specific struggles. First, a call to blast Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the North West Detention Center officials in support of a campaign launched by Tacoma grassroots organization La Resistencia, bringing awareness of the horrid COVID conditions at the detention centers. This, in addition with ongoing inhumane treatment before COVID, including documented sexual abuse, is what led to the most recent hunger strike last month.
Second, a call to contact local CBCC and Washington State Department of Corrections Headquarters officials and administration to inquire about when volunteering and programming will open up for the community to participate. It has been too long since the people housed at CBCC have been without volunteer programs and other educational and recreational opportunities, which are essential to heal, evolve and rehabilitate. Prolonged isolation from neighbors only harms prisoners and the safety of communities and institutions.
Members of the Party for Socialism and Liberation set up with information about the upcoming “Pride” film showing on June 25 along with literature on the Marxist analysis of LGBTQ struggle, and the ongoing abortion rights struggle.
The night ended with a reminder to love yourself and who you are, to keep building community and to stay in the streets because that’s the only way we have won and kept our rights. Organizers encouraged the community to take to the streets the following day at Port Angeles’ Pride on the Pier March.
Sunday: Port Angeles Pride on the Pier
Port Angeles held the second annual Pride on the Pier rally and march on June 5. Led and organized by Queer Black and Indigenous youth, the rally gathered at 4 p.m. under rainy, cold conditions. Around 4:10 p.m. when the march from the pier through the downtown strip and the waterfront kicked off, the skies opened up and the sun shone down on 250 marchers, revealing to the world that Pride does exist in Port Angeles. At one point marchers took a portion of the streets, stopping traffic, jumping and shouting with car horns honking in solidarity. As the march went on, many on-lookers, workers and patrons of a community heavily reliant on tourism and hospitality, popped out onto the streets to wave in support of the family-friendly, inclusive action.
Like the Sequim Coming Out Picnic, the Pride on the Pier rally and march was not an official city government event. Also, like Pride in Sequim, one of the Port Angeles Pride organizers, Benji, stated;
“As cool as it would be to have recognition from the local government … having the power come from the people, from an LGBTQ+ youth led and centered movement, feels equally, if not more important …”Benji
Clallam County and the greater Olympic Peninsula community is starting to wake up and see the reality: Capitalist institutions are not where the radical positive change in people’s lives is being created.
We asked Jenson, co-organizer of both Sequim and Port Angeles events, what significance these Pride celebrations had in the greater context of existing in a society architected by capitalism.
“… capitalism relies on violence to destroy communities, dissolve collective power and homogenize identity. That means that Pride — real Pride — stands in direct opposition to a capitalist future.”Jenson
In the summer of 2021, a group of just seven volunteer organizers, fed up with the backwardness that is stereotypical of Forks, Washington, paid out of their own pockets to hold the town’s first ever Pride. Even with few resources at their disposal and an unprecedented heat wave setting in, the inaugural Pride was a huge success attracting upwards of 360 people throughout the day. On June 5 this year, in the city’s Tillicum Park, “Pride in the Park” became the second Pride event ever organized in Forks. From 2 to 6 p.m., the afternoon was filled with carnival games, storytelling, drag shows and more.
Whereas it had been incredibly difficult for organizers in Forks to get resources for last year’s Pride, the stigma is now dropping. Many kids in the community have been able to come out, effecting a change in their parent’s attitudes and the overall culture in Forks. More people, businesses, and organizations from all across Washington are reaching out to help sponsor or donate to the Forks Pride organizers, now known as “Rainshadow Rainbows.” Kiersten, the President of Rainshadow Rainbows, expressed in an interview to Liberation News that 2023’s Forks Pride has already been guaranteed the funding that it needs to grow even larger. In light of this momentum, Kiersten stated the following;
“One of the things that we want to start doing instead of just Pride once a year, is a monthly thing. We should be offering spotlight nights, or like, community queer nights. We have screens, we can get projectors, so having movie nights is a big possibility.”Kiersten, President of Rainshadow Rainbows
Kiersten also explained that there is still much work to be done. The local school has a single nonbinary bathroom which is kept locked. Kids who want to access it must ask for the key. This is an infuriating violation of a child’s privacy. Film showings would serve to highlight any major films that would help to bring up sensitive or relevant topics in a setting that may otherwise be difficult for LGBTQ people. More importantly, any of these recurring monthly events would create a space for people to come, get involved, and grow as a community. More than just a protest or a party, Fork’s Pride now has the capacity to turn into a vehicle for progressive change in the community.
Other events around Pride on the Olympic Peninsula:
June 10, Port Angeles: The Art of Drag with Blake McCabe at One of a Kind Art Gallery
June 11, Forks: North Olympic Library System’s Rainbow Story Time for kids!
June 25, Port Townsend: Sound of Pride with Olympic Pride.
June 25, Port Angeles: Screening of “Pride” the film with Olympic Peninsula PSL Film Series