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Howard County hopes first Pride event Saturday will lead to annual celebration

Pride month was borne out of a spontaneous act of resistance in New York City in 1969. On Saturday, exactly 50 years after that spontaneous act of resistance in 1969, Howard County will host its first official event to commemorate the act and show its support for the LGBTQ community.

Pride is celebrated nationwide during the anniversary of the month of the Stonewall riots. The riots occurred in Manhattan’s West Village neighborhood after New York City police raided a gay bar known as the Stonewall Inn. The bar was run by the mob, and police were known for raiding spaces frequented by those in the lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender communities.

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The raid and the violent response received national press coverage and is widely considered the launching point of the LGBTQ rights movement.

The Howard County Pride Festival will take place Saturday and is co-sponsored by Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, or PFLAG, and Howard County Executive Calvin Ball, who lit up the George Howard building in purple lights earlier this month in honor of Pride.

Jumel Howard, a 23-year-old who has family in the county, has taken the lead in planning the county’s first Pride event. Organizing began in July 2017 and, since then, Howard has worked alongside other organizers to plan the event.

Howard, who also serves as PFLAG vice president, said county government has been integral to helping him plan the event.

Under former County Executive Allan Kittleman, Andrew Howard served as a liaison who assisted in raising money for Saturday’s event. Under Ball, county spokesman Scott Peterson has assisted with media outreach, and Kimberly Pruim, director of constituent services and community partnerships, has assisted with general planning, Howard said.

The overall monetary contribution from the county is at least $6,000, according to Howard. The county did not charge for renting space at Centennial Park, which would have cost organizers $5,000, he said. They’ve also received support from the county police department and schools Superintendent Michael Martirano, who helped secure overflow parking on school system property, Howard said.

“Without their support, the festival probably would have fallen apart,” Howard said.

Howard said the biggest challenge in planning the festival is volunteer coordination and logistics.

“Getting people together, energized and staying at that level of energy is definitely a task,” he said.

Howard said there are more than 100 volunteers helping with the event, and more than 50 vendors are planned including the county chapter of the NAACP, Howard County General Hospital, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church and Tails of Hope, an animal protection organization located in Mount Airy.

The state capital of Annapolis also is holding its first Pride parade and festival on Saturday at Amos Garrett Boulevard and West Street. Approximately 5,000 people attended the inaugural Upper Chesapeake Bay Pride Festival in Harford County last weekend, while the cities of Baltimore and Frederick held events earlier this month. Next month, Hagerstown and Cumberland will host their own Pride festivals.

Howard County is often lauded as a place of acceptance and tolerance. Columbia was founded by Jim Rouse with the concept of fostering racial and economic integration. When asked about the level of acceptance those in the LGBTQ community feel, Howard said there isn’t really an overall answer as experiences are varied because of the age, racial and gender diversity in the community.

In 2018, there were no complaints filed with the Office of Human Rights based on discrimination of sexual orientation or gender-identity, according to an annual county report released this week.

The report also found there were 58 hate-bias incidents reported and 9% were related to or motivated by an LGBTQ background. A hate-bias incident is an act of prejudice, hate or violence directed against individuals, groups or institutions because of race, religion, ethnic background or sexual orientation, the report outlines.

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In Maryland, approximately 3.7% of the state’s 6 million residents identify as LGBTQ, according to the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Law and Public Policy at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law.

The festival will take place rain or shine at Centennial Park from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. Organizers have said this is a family-friendly event, where alcohol will not be present.

Howard said they’ve planned for 1,000 to 2,000 people to attend and to have games, magic shows, stand-up comics and food trucks at the event. According to the group’s Facebook page, there also will be music, DJs and a drag show. Howard said organizers plan to host the event every year.

Max Crownover, PFLAG President, in an interview said this event is important because “Howard markets itself as an inclusive and accepting community. I think having this celebration or this recognition is an important message we send to residents and people outside the county.”

“We should be celebrating what we have in Howard and acknowledging the LGBTQ community,” he added.

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