Ann Arbor Pride will be returning September 11, following a two-year hiatus where the celebration could only be experienced through virtual events.
Hosted by the Jim Toy Community Center, Ann Arbor pride will take place at Wheeler Park, 200 Depot St, Ann Arbor. from 12-5 p.m.
The Jim Toy Community Center will host a picnic featuring live entertainment, vendors, and a special appearance from headliner Drag queen Aja Lebeija. Lebeija is a star of the TV show “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”
The Jim Toy Community Center is a resource center that exists to provide information, education, social events, and advocacy by and for the Queer and Ally community in the Washtenaw County area.
Joe Halsch, president of the Jim Toy Community Center, said, “During those two years, we learned the importance of these events, even in a virtual setting. We learned the importance of accessibility and the importance of that window into our community.”
Halsh stated that he believes this year’s Pride event will offer a memorable experience for anyone attending.
“The vendors and community response has been wonderful. We’re going to have churches and religious organizations. The Washtenaw County Health Department will be there to talk about monkeypox and COVID,” Halsh said. “We’re having pop-up shops for people to support other Queer businesses, support each other, and be in a space where you’re not worried about what you’re wearing, what your name is, or what your pronouns are. This event is a space for everyone.”
The upcoming picnic is a celebration of the LGBTQ+ community, however it is not the only motivating force for the celebration. This event will also recognize and commemorate Jim Toy, a prominent LGBT activist and regarded as the first person in Michigan to publicly declare his homosexuality.
Toy died this year on January 1 at the age of 91.
To honor Toy’s legacy, The Jim Toy Community Center will also announce the Jim Toy Community Foundation, a grant program to promote education and advocacy.
“We’re building a foundation that supports the three pillars that resonated throughout his life. Education, advocacy, and community development are what this foundation is going to provide,” Halsh said. “This foundation will help people be able to apply for the money. We want to spread
knowledge, spread community and spread Jim’s values beyond the center.”
While the foundation will act as a significant contribution to the LGBTQ+ community throughout Ann Arbor, Halsh states that this Pride picnic is a celebration of those within the pride community.
Additionally, Halsh noted that this event is appropriate for all ages.
“I want people to bring their true, authentic, unapologetic selves. We will have bathrooms there, so if people want to change, there will be safe places,” Halsh said. “I want people to also come in that spirit of pride, have confidence, and have the ability to walk with their heads held high or to smile and exhale. I want people to have a good time, meet others and continue relationships beyond September 11.”