Pride in the Park, Sunday, Sept 20th

September 13, 2009 at 6:28 pm Leave a comment

By STAR co-founder,  Joe Cobb

The first Pride Festival I ever attended was Pride in the Park in Roanoke, Virginia in September 2001.  I was considering moving to the area and a friend recommended I check out the community and attend some of the Pride events to meet people and see if this was a community I could thrive in.

I attended the Pride Prom at the Unitarian Universalist Church, and then, a week later, the Pride dinner and auction at the same location.  I met many amazing people there, including my partner, James.  The next day, I attended Pride in the Park and fell in love with the beautiful setting of Highland Park, and the friendly and safe space created by the festival planners.

Much has happened since those days.  I moved to Roanoke in October of that year.  My partner James and I have a wonderful family of two teenagers and a toddler.  I’m serving as the Provisional Pastor of Metropolitan Community Church of the Blue Ridge.  I’ve discovered a community in Roanoke and this region dedicated to building inclusive community.

This year, I am honored to be one of thirty Creative Connectors, a project of Richard Florida’s Creative Class, and we have created four initiatives devoted to strengthening the fabric of community in the region.  I’m on the S.T.A.R. initiative which is the “Spirit of Tolerance and Arts in the Region”.  One of our goals is support existing events dedicated to promoting diversity and inclusive community.

That’s why we’ll be present at this year’s 20th annual Pride in the Park Festival on Sunday, September 20 in Elmwood Park.  We’ll be collaborating with the Conflict Resolution Center in presenting “Peace by Piece”, a quilt project for children who are dedicated to making a creative expression of their belief in peace.  The Metropolitan Community Church will be hosting a Pride Worship Celebration at 10:00 am at the lower stage near Franklin Road, and opening ceremonies for the festival begin at 11:00 a.m.  The festival runs throughout the day until 6:00 p.m.

As I reflect on what Pride means to me, I celebrate through song: 

Singing My Pride
  
Music is one of the heartbeats of my life.  Music has lulled me to sleep in the night.  Music has given me hope when the darkness was heavy.  Music has awakened me to all that is possible.  Music has helped me soar. 
 
Music helps me remember who I am and why I am here.  Music is a source of pride, strength, courage and love.  As the GLBT community prepares to celebrate the 20th annual Pride in the Park Festival in Roanoke (www.roanokepride.com <http://www.roanokepride.com> ), I want to share with you some of the songs that are special to me and how they inspire me to be who I am called to be.  I also invite you to reflect on the songs that inspire you.  How do they help you be all you can be?
 
Proud by Heather Small, is a song I originally heard on a Queer as Folk soundtrack.  Asking, “what have you done today to make you feel proud?”, I felt an invitation to ask myself, in every moment of life, what I can do to make this world more welcoming, inclusive, equal and just.  When I witness the courage of so many who, day in and day out, live their lives with a spirit of love and grace, I am touched to be part of a community devoted to expanding love.
 
I’m Coming Out, sung by Diana Ross, makes me celebrate the gift of coming out.  I began the coming out process when I was 36, and had to work through alot of questions about identity, sexuality, guilt and shame, before emerging in a place to celebrate who I am.  This song is one of my “anthems” of personal celebration.
 
When Gloria Gaynor launches into I Will Survive, I think about all I and so many have survived in seeking to live authentic and honest lives.  Though this song is a call to stand up for ourselves and not let others take advantage, I often insert “fear” as the exited lover, reminding myself that fear’s power over me is limited and limiting.  As I continue to free myself of fear, I open myself to growth.
 
In the early stages of coming out, I attended a retreat at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, New Mexico, led by the gay writer and activist Chris Glaser.  The focus of the retreat was an exploration of the writings of Henri Nouwen, a catholic priest and writer on the spiritual life.  During the course of the retreat, Chris introduced me to a song, with new words added to the familiar tune Morning Has Broken.  The lyrics were penned by Holly Whitcomb:
 
I am the glory
I am the blessed
Incarnation,
Body and Soul–
None other like me
I am precious–
Gift of creation
Honored and whole.
 
This song became a mantra for me as I moved through shame and guilt to a place of peace about who I am as a spiritual and sexual being.
 
The musical “Rent” produced a number of fantastic songs, and Seasons of Love became one of my favorites for its celebration of the moment, and the minutes, and the friendships that keep us sane and connected in our lives. 
 
For Good, from the musical “Wicked”, is a duet sung by Glinda and Elphaba, a journey of their lives together, and how in the end, they can say to each other, “because I knew you, I have been changed for good”.  Part of my pride journey is remembering and celebrating the people who have walked with me in struggles and joys.  I am grateful for each one and thankful.
 
Finally, the song that touches my heart more deeply than any, especially considering my Kansas roots and my love for the importance of living our dreams, is Over the Rainbow.  When I heard the recording of Judy Garland singing this in her Carnegie Hall concert, I was touched by her vulnerability.  There is an awareness, that even when life throws us curves, and we feel as though the challenges are too great to overcome, there is hope. 
 
“When happy little bluebirds fly
above the rainbow,
why, oh why, can’t I?”
 
Happy Pride to all!  And keep singing!      


Rev. Joe Cobb
Provisional Pastor, Metropolitan Community Church of the Blue Ridge

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Henry Street Festival OPEN DOOR SERIES begins this Thursday, Nov. 12 at The Shenandoah Club

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STAR CALENDAR

MAY - Local Colors... JUNE - Juneteenth... JULY - On The Edge (Floyd, VA)... AUG - Steppin' Out (Blacksburg, VA)... SEPT - Henry Street Festival, Pride Parade... OCT - Bridgewalk, Latino Festival... NOV -Open Doors Series.... DEC - Taubman Museum/Wine and Wonder... JAN - Writer's Series... FEB - Harrison Museum - Black History Month... MAR -Interfaith Event... APR/MAY - Down by Downtown STAR Festival

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