Capitol Pride Salem

Saturday, August 15, 2015

10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Salem’s Beautiful Riverfront Park

Dwayne Gerken, President of the Board of Directors of Capitol Pride, has been involved with the annual GLBTQ+ “Capitol Pride” summer celebration for four years.  As the next one approaches, Gerken says he is thrilled with how the event has grown.

“Each year, we have built upon the last,” he says.  “Our attendance has grown, the response from vendors and sponsors has grown, and the response from the community continues to improve.”

Gerken has been busy for months organizing this year’s festive day of activities events and music, slated to be held Saturday, August 15th in Salem’s Riverfront Park.  “Last year, Oregon legalized gay marriage,” he says.  “This year, it’s legal nationwide.  I think that calls for celebration!”

Gerken is particularly excited that up-and-coming gay American musical artist, Jeremiah Clark will perform that day.  For his part, Clark is just as pleased.

“Capitol Pride,” Clark tells Salem Weekly, “is the one time of year where every single person in and around the Salem community can come to be themselves. All ages, races, sexual identities… it doesn’t matter who or what you are.  Pride is where you get to be YOU.”

Clark has a special interest in involving youth who may not have many opportunities to “be themselves.”  In many Oregon cities, he says, there are “just not enough resources for those under 21 to go around… For some young folks, this one day is their time to shine, and celebrate without the fear of being reprimanded or censored.”

Capitol Pride means that Clark and his band will be traveling as a group for the first time.  He says he is especially looking forward to performing “Understood?” and “United States Dividing,” two songs the band “absolutely loves to play.”  Both are anthems and have a similar tone, both are meant to inspire and empower.

Among the many vendors present that day, the HIV Alliance will be sharing a booth with Marion County Health Department.  Paul Horman, Senior Program Manager of the HIV Alliance, based in Eugene, says the Pride event is “a great way to connect with other members of the LGBTQ+ community, and remember how far we’ve come as a community… It is truly a place where everyone can express themselves freely and there is no judgment.”

For Horman, promoting a sense of inclusion is almost as important as his mission of education (“Everybody should get tested.”)

“Pride events,” he says, “are important because they help us remember how far we have come as a community.  It was not that long ago that we were marginalized and discriminated against.  In fact, there are many people who still feel the stigma in their community because they are LGBTQ+.”

As of this writing, Capitol Pride’s Facebook page already boasts 600 likes, and 800 people say they are attending.  “The overall awareness of Pride is increasing,” Gerken says, “and it’s great!  It appears Salem may be “coming in to its own” style of celebration.  It’s a great thing to see happening.”