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What started as a group of young people who decided to march down Main Street waving mini rainbow flags has turned – into a spectacular community wide event. Red Lake celebrated its second annual Pride June 8 and 9, growing from its – humble yet driven beginnings to something even greater.
[pullquote]“It snowballed to where the kids explained what they’d like to see and then a lot of community partners said, what ever you want us to do, let us know and we’ll be there[/pullquote]“It just grew,” said Michael Brunton, one of the event organizers, reflecting on how the event expanded. “It snowballed to where the kids explained what they’d like to see and then a lot of community partners said, what ever you want us to do, let us know and we’ll be there.”
All of the community organizations and businesses involved, and the town itself were very supportive and cooperative, Brunton said. The event was a way to publicly support the LGBTQ2+ community, young people and allies.
“We’re kind of in the movement of a new social chapter, and that would include changes to policy, changes to the law, changes to services offered,” said Brunton.
Looking at how policies and attitudes have changed, particularly around bullying, he said, “There’s a framework now designed to stop that that didn’t exist be fore… We still have work to do and that’s what events like Pride are meant for. Let’s show our support, let’s be visible.”
With events like Pride, he said, people can net work with other community members, connect with other organizations and support networks in the region, and can learn more about resources specifically available to LGBTQ2+ people. In planning Pride with – young people, organizers used the medicine wheel teachings as a guide, focusing on the impact on spiritual, mental, physical, and emotional health.
“Everything we’re trying to offer would be strengthening one’s position within the medicine wheel and trying to get all of those things in line with each other,” Brunton explained. “If something has a positive effect on you it’s going to affect you in several different ways. Red Lake artist Patrick Hunter and hometown athlete Eric Radford were guest speakers during the festivities. Hunter was also part of the festival committee.
Brunton highlighted that Hunter and Radford are local success stories, admired by many. “Coming back up and being able to be a part of their second annual Pride event is something that’s really exciting and something I find really amazing,” said Radford.
[pullquote]Growing up in a small town when I was younger I found it actually quite difficult dealing with my sexuality, and I got bullied a lot[/pullquote]“Growing up in a small town when I was younger I found it actually quite difficult dealing with my sexuality, and I got bullied a lot,” he shared.
Knowing that young people were involved in the planning so much is inspiring, he said, sharing the story of visiting St. John School and receiving a student-made drawing of Radford’s proposal to his partner. “I was so touched,” he said about the picture, drawn with a rainbow background. “It made me very emotional.”
The student told him that she wanted to congratulate him for the proposal, knowing many – have focused on his skating success foremost. It was a special moment that has stuck with Rad ford, who recalled how thoughtful and mature it was. To see progress, driven by youth, is inspiring, amazing, and touching, he said.
“I’m astounded by their drive and their courage to just be themselves and just go for it, to celebrate their identity like that,” said Radford.
For anyone who wants to get involved in planning next year’s event, Brunton is encouraging them to send a mes sage via the Red Lake Pride Facebook page. He hopes to build on the event every year, and cement its place as “a very positive, community-driven event.”
Youth, he offered, could look for a ray of hope through Pride. “They could look at the events like Pride as something they can take comfort in, find support in and look forward to.”