Organizers hosting Pride Festival to help change how Broken Arrow views LGBTQ+ community
Broken Arrow's first-ever Gay Pride Festival is just over a week away.
Festival organizers said they decided to put on the event because they knew they had to do something to help change the city's culture.
At the end of last school year, students from the Broken Arrow Freshman Academy staged walkouts and protested bullying after a classmate took their own life.
Event organizer Jenn Teehee said it was the negative responses from some community members about the student, who was a member of the LGBTQ+ community, that prompted the event.
"That's really what sparked it — we just knew something had to change in the culture of Broken Arrow," Teehee said.
Organizers said they scheduled the event right before classes started so they could help provide students with resources, and to let them know that they're not alone.
"We're just hoping that as they go in to the new school year and with all of the changes being made in the education world, that they know that they don't have to be silent and they don't have to hide, and that they've got people that are supporting them," Teehee explained.
Penny Nelson, co-founder of the nonprofit Advocate Alliance of Broken Arrow, said she helped create the organization because she saw a need for it in the community.
"The youth here in the LGBTQ+ community need to know that they are safe, they are loved, they have people here that will help protect them — will help support them and that love them no matter who they choose to love or who they choose to be," Nelson said.
During a regularly scheduled board meeting on Monday, members of the community voiced their support and disapproval of the festival.
Teehee said people speaking out against the festival cited biblical scriptures.
"It's frustrating because they are just picking the scriptures that fit their narrative, instead of really truly looking at the person they're supposed to be emulating," Teehee said.
In spite of that, organizers said they've received an outpouring of community support.
The Pride Festival kicks off at noon Saturday at the Broken Arrow Events Park.
Security officers will be present and organizers said they plan to keep in contact with Broken Arrow Police throughout the day.
All proceeds will be donated to Youth Services of Tulsa to help bolster their LGBTQ program.