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Valdosta brings PRIDE to LGBTQ community

 Valdosta PRIDE promises to be a crowd pleasing festival of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) community, featuring games, demonstrations, and guest speakers among other festivities.
 Valdosta PRIDE is modeled after other PRIDE functions that take place both nationally and internationally. The events promote awareness, acceptance, unity, diversity and education about members of the gay community.
 “It (PRIDE) is a big step forward for our community,” Doel Parilla, president VSU’s Gay-Straight Alliance, said. “There are already PRIDEs in Savannah and Atlanta but none in southern Georgia. The establishment and continuation of one in our area not only says that we are here, but also gives us a voice in the community. Valdosta PRIDE is a step in the right direction to making the LGBTQ community more visible.” 
 The Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) plans to take part in PRIDE by running an informational booth that will pass out flyers about the LGBTQ community.
 GSA won’t be the only participants in this year’s PRIDE. The mother of a hate crime victim, Mrs. Elke Kennedy, will be a guest speaker.
 After her son’s death in 2007, Kennedy began an organization called Sean’s Last Wish, a group that spreads awareness about the lack of law enforcement that prevents hate crimes.
 Another much anticipated speaker this year is Roy Kirkland, who will be presenting his documentary “A Cross Burning in Willacoochee”, a film about the fire that devastated both Mr. Kirkland’s and his partner’s lives.
 Parrilla hopes to have over 1000 attendees which will help spread the message of equality and unity throughout the community.
 For Parrilla, the primary concern is the number of advertisements that are posted; the level of interest is the most important aspect to make sure PRIDE has a deep root.
 Tanner Blue, freshman psychology major, plans to attend.
 “I think it’s awesome,” she said. “It’s the best thing in the world. I’m totally for the diversity and unity. We need it to make a strong community.”
 Michael Charity, freshman pre-engineering major, agrees.
 “I’ve got a couple of gay friends, and it’s pretty awesome that they have that support,” he said.
  Parrilla hopes that Valdosta PRIDE will be a success.
 “We have to start somewhere and I hope that this is a beginning. South Ga. is not as accepting of the LGBTQ community as other parts of the United States. I hope that this is a way of bridging the gap between two very different, and yet not so different worlds,” he said.
 Festivities will start at 10 a.m. at Saunders Park on River Street.

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