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Tuscaloosa celebrates a week of Pride, LGBTQ+ inclusion

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Cliché performed cover songs in front of the crowd at the Druid City Pride Festival. CW/ Austin Bigoney

Cliché performed cover songs in front of the crowd at the Druid City Pride Festival. CW/ Austin Bigoney

Cliché performed cover songs in front of the crowd at the Druid City Pride Festival. CW/ Austin Bigoney

Jared Ferguson, Contributing Writer

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Update (10/15/18 9:18): This article was updated to clarify the gender pronouns of Leland Hughes.

Bingo, poetry and pints were just a few of the elements involved in this year’s Pride Week. The week consisted of a range of events all centered around creating a seven-day-long celebration for the local LGBTQ+ community.

An LGBTQ+ poetry reading at the downtown bar Icon started the week off, followed the next day by an amateur drag competition, whose winner was decided by crowd applause.

Leland Hughes, a performer and the winner of the Druid City Pride drag competition earlier this year, discussed his role in the event following his persona’s coronation as Miss Druid City Pride.

“I have been in entertaining for the past nine years in Tuscaloosa, so I thought the competition would be the proper way to be the first representative of the title, considering I am the face of gay Tuscaloosa now,” Hughes said.

Hughes also discussed his take on the importance of the week and how it works to be inclusive for everyone.

“It is nice to have something for people who come from towns that do not have a celebration for themselves,” Leland said. “It is nice for people coming to college to have a chance at being who they are and to free. Hopefully, if people come and are having trouble finding their voice, maybe seeing other people who are comfortable in living happy lives, maybe that will inspire them to want to do the same.”

The week was not just a celebration of the present. As a reminder of the struggles those in the LGBTQ+ community faced in the past and continue to face, on Tuesday there was a screening of “Upstairs Inferno,” a documentary detailing an act of arson in the UpStairs Lounge in New Orleans in 1973. This was the most deadly LGBTQ+ attack before the 2016 shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

Pride Week ended with a festival in Government Plaza, featuring a performance from actress and comedian Lady Bunny. The festival consisted of entertainers and musicians along with other activities.

“The festival in particular is our time once a year to let loose and have a massive enjoyable party,” said Russell C. Howard, the head of Druid City Pride.

The community organization Druid City Pride, which has been active for three years now, sponsored this year’s festivities. Howard said the organization’s origin came from the intention to make the LGBTQ+ community in Tuscaloosa feel more inclusive.

“One of the important things that drew us to form this organization was that, while The University of Alabama has a few LGBTQ+ organizations, there is really nothing for the citizens of Tuscaloosa,” Howard said. “We stepped in to fill that void, and it has been wonderful. It has been excellent to see the community, to come out and support members and it has been through our festival and other events throughout the year, it is an excellent opportunity to come out and meet new allies and LGBTQ+ people in our community.”

This same sentiment was shared by Emma Colson, who attended “Rainbow Connections: An Evening of Local LGBTQ+ History” at Hotel Indigo’s rooftop bar on Thursday.

“I think that it is important for students to be involved in our local pride communities,” said Colson, a senior majoring in African-American studies. “I think that we can do better with that involvement but while we are here, for many of us, Tuscaloosa becomes our home, and it is really great to have this community of people that are older than us but also have more life experience. I love the connections that I have made with the LGBTQ+ community outside of the campus from Druid City Pride.”

Those who are interested in finding out more details on the organization or upcoming Druid City Pride events are encouraged to follow the organization on Facebook.

CW/ Austin Bigoney

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Tuscaloosa celebrates a week of Pride, LGBTQ+ inclusion