Photos and Story by Anthony Merriweather and Megan Cole / Contributing Writers
Hundreds of people gathered Saturday to celebrate inclusivity and interact with vendors on the historic Murfreesboro City Square at the second annual Boro Pride Festival.
The event was organized by the Tennessee Equality Project’s Rutherford County Committee, a local arm of the TEP Foundation. A “Pride March” around the Rutherford County Courthouse kicked off the event, and afterwards members and supporters of the LGBTQ community congregated over food and refreshments, live music and entertainment.
Vendors offered pride flags, t-shirts and free HIV testing. There were also activities for children, including storytelling on the courthouse steps, hula-hooping on the lawn and face painting.
A wide array of groups were present to show their support for the LGBTQ members in their community.
George Cunningham, 59, a gay pastor at Open Table Church in Murfreesboro, expressed why it was important for his church to be at Pride.
“I think it’s great to show a progressive side and have an open-minded attitude that believes in equality for everyone,” Cunningham said. “We always say at church: Love your neighbor, and your neighbor is a LGBT person, a Muslim, a Mexican immigrant, a Republican, a Democrat, everybody.”
Representatives from MTSU attended the festival and promoted the MT Lambda Association, which is the oldest LGBT higher education student organization in the state of Tennessee. MT Lambda provides students with a safe place to express who they are on campus.
Bekah Dawson, a member of MT Lambda who is pursuing a master’s degree in sociology at MTSU, emphasized the importance of acceptance.
“I am here to show people that you are not alone,” Dawson said. “Especially in the South, events like this show that people really do care about you, and you have a place to be yourself.”
Participants of all ages were present at the festival. Some expressed their appreciation for those in the community who came together to embrace the differences of one another.
When asked how it feels to be a part of the festival, Murfreesboro resident Sherri Gray, 76, a therapist and LGBT songwriter and activist, said, “Wonderful. I go back to an age when ‘in the closet’ was the way to be. So, I love seeing the acceptance. It makes me feel happy that some of the world, at least, is embracing diversity. You know, we’re all just like regular people. We all take pets to the vet, we get gas in our car (and) we buy groceries. We’re all alike, and people focus on the differences … And, I think there are quite a few straight people here, too. I think more and more of the world are learning gay and (transgender) people are not monsters and out to get you. They’re just trying to get along in the world.”
Nineteen-year-old Murfreesboro resident Evan Talford, 19, summed up the event, saying, “It’s kind of like our lifelong party to be who we want to be.”
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